Learn how you could help save a life.

If you’re like many, you may have already expressed your desire to be an organ donor upon your death by checking a box on your driver’s license application. But did you know that you can also donate a kidney, part of your liver, and certain other tissues like skin and stem cells while you’re alive? That’s right! In fact, about 6,500 living donation transplants take place every year.1

Living kidney donation is the most common type of living donation. And with more 90,000 Americans waiting for a kidney transplant, there’s a great need!

Why become a living donor?

Many living donors come to consider organ donation when a family member or friend is in need of a transplant. That’s because, unlike deceased donors, living donors can choose who to donate their organ to. For example, if a loved one needs a kidney, you can get tested to see if you’re eligible to donate to them. If you’re eligible and your kidney is a close enough match for your loved one's, you can become their living donor.

Living donors can also choose to donate an organ to someone they don’t know. This may be through an altruistic donation, where a person donates to someone they don’t know with nothing expected in exchange, or through a paired exchange, where one person donates an organ to someone they don’t know, and that recipient’s family member or friend donates the same organ to the donor’s loved one in return. Paired exchanges can be used in cases where a donor isn’t a match for their loved one.

Who’s eligible to be a living donor?

Eligibility guidelines may vary depending on where the transplant is being performed. According to OrganDonor.gov, in general, a person must be age 18 or older and in good physical and mental health to donate an organ.

We need to normalize living organ donation. Someone’s life depends on it. People always ask, ‘why would you donate to a stranger?’ My answer back is always ‘why not?’"

Sophia Jackson, altruistic kidney donor

What’s involved in becoming a living donor?

Once a person expresses interest in becoming a living donor, they’ll need to connect with a local transplant center, whose clinicians can help determine if they’re a good fit. This is a process that can take several months and may include:

  • A physical exam, lab and/or imaging tests, and screenings for certain health conditions
  • A detailed medical history
  • Undergoing a mental health evaluation
  • Discussion of finances and social supports, and whether the donor is able to take time off work and other responsibilities for recovery
  • Learning about the risks and benefits of living donation

If the person is approved to become a living donor, the transplant hospital will also determine if they are a match for the recipient (or find a match, if the donation isn’t directed to a specific person), and eventually schedule surgery.

Are there any risks of being a living donor?

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, overall risks are considered to be low, but may vary depending on the donor’s health and the organ being donated. The transplant hospital should inform the potential donor of all risks ahead of time.

What are the benefits of living donation?

There are many benefits to living donation! For the donor, it can mean helping to save or drastically improving the life of another human being. For recipients, a transplant from a living donor can mean less time on the waiting list and improved long-term outcomes compared to a deceased donor transplant.

Ready to say “YES” to saving a life?

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Health Resources & Services Administration. https://www.organdonor.gov/learn/process/living-donation [Accessed 12/28/23].