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Becoming A Living Donor
Not everyone is healthy enough to be eligible to become a living donor. Since the health and safety of our living donors becomes the top priority when performing a living donor transplant of any kind, acceptable candidates must be in top physical and emotional condition before going into the surgery.
Qualifications for Living Donors
- The decision to donate must be voluntary. The donor can change his or her mind at any time during the process. The donor’s decision and reasons will be kept confidential.
- A candidate must be in good overall health and have normal organ function and anatomy.
- In general, living donors must be physically fit and free from high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease and heart disease.
- A living donor cannot be paid for the donated organ because it is illegal under the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984. It is illegal under state law as well.
- Individuals considered for living donation are usually 18-60 years of age.
- If the living donor candidate meets the initial criteria for donation, physical examinations and psychological evaluations will be required to check for further compatibility.
- Transplant centers must also implement a written living donor informed consent process that ensures the prospective living donor has been informed of both the aspects of living donation and its potential outcomes.
Types of Living Donors
Related Living Directed Donation
Related living donors are healthy blood relatives of transplant candidates, including:
- Brothers and sisters
- Children over 18 years of age
- Other blood relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins, half brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews)
Non-Related Directed Donation
Unrelated living donors including healthy individuals emotionally close to transplant candidates, but not related by blood, including:
- Relatives through marriage
- Close friends
- Co-workers, neighbors or other acquaintances
Living donors who are not related to or known by the recipient, but make their donation purely out of selfless motives. This type of donation is also referred to as anonymous, or altruistic living donation.
Paired Exchange Donation
Kidney paired donation, or kidney exchange, is a system that frequently allows the kindness of one person, who has volunteered to donate their kidney, to initiate a chain of transplants allowing more than one person in need to benefit from their precious gift. Kidney Paired Donation Programs may also include non-directed kidney donors who wish to donate to anyone that is currently waiting for a kidney transplant.
Making the Decision to Donate
Potential living donors should make the decision to donate with all the information necessary to make an informed, educated choice. The decision to donate needs to be made voluntarily and free from internal or family pressure. The donor can change his or mind at any time during the process. The donor’s decision and reasons will be kept confidential.
Making the decision to be a living donor is a very personal one and the potential donor must consider the possibility of health effects that could occur following donation. In most cases, the donor must also take into consideration the life-saving potential for a loved one—the transplant recipient.
After living donation, the donor’s life typically goes back to normal. Patients often return to their normal activities four to six weeks after surgery, but the time frame can vary.
Because all of the effects to the donor, especially long-term effects, are not known at this time, the Federal Government does not actively encourage anyone to be a living donor. They do recognize the wonderful benefit that this gift of life provides to the patient awaiting a transplant. There are currently several ongoing programs supported by the Division of Transplantation, Health Resources Services Administration, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to study, support, and protect the living donors who do choose to provide this gift.
Most medical costs associated with living donation are covered by the recipient’s insurance. The government requires all certified transplant centers to charge a recipient's insurance an "acquisition fee" when he or she receives a transplant. The medical costs related to the donor's medical evaluation, transplant procedure and postoperative care, called the "donor protocol" are covered by this fee. Anything that falls outside of this protocol is not covered. These costs could include annual physicals, travel, lodging, lost-wages and other non-medical expenses. The transplant center will be able to provide any information needed about the financial aspect of the procedure.
Who Makes a Good Donor?
While many people are willing to be living donors, not everyone meets the requirements necessary to participate in living donation. Potential living donors are screened carefully in order to avoid outcomes that are medically and psychologically unsatisfactory for all parties involved. Only a transplant center can definitively rule on whether a person is qualified to be a living donor.
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