General Information on Living Donation

Living organ donation has become a common source of organs for those in need of organ transplantation, usually a kidney, bone marrow, and sometimes the portion of a liver. Less common is donation of a portion of a lung or small intestine. There are thousands of living donations in the US and around the world every year.

The most common question we get on this site is “How do I become a living donor?” In general, the answer is as follows:

  • First check with family and friends to see if there is anyone who needs an organ transplant. Donations most frequently are between people who know each other because they are relatives, friends, or affiliated through religious or social groups.
  • If you don’t find someone that way, contact the nearest transplant center, usually the closest teaching hospital. You can find transplant centers in the USA by visiting this web site: Find a Transplant Center.  Ask if the transplant center has an anonymous or “nondirected” donor program. Some transplant centers have formal programs, some don’t. If they do, ask how you can participate. If they don’t, ask for suggestions on how you can become an anonymous donor elsewhere.
  • If you would like to donate a kidney, sign up for one of the living donor registries in the US. You can find the registries on this web page: Living Donors Online Kidney Links. Look in the “Living Donor Registries” section for information and links to web sites with more information.

To find details on specific types of living donation, go to these pages of Living Donors Online:

Living donation involves significant invasive medical procedures. Please make sure you are ready to donate. Being ready means:

  • I am intellectually ready: I have studied living organ donation, and I understand the process including the risks involved.
  • I am emotionally ready: I have prepared myself emotionally for living donation, including the possibility that the donation may not be successful and that I may be harmed in the process.
  • I am physically ready: I am in great physical shape because I need to withstand major surgery, I need to have a healthy organ or marrow to donate, and I need to live with less than my full complement of organs.
  • I am financially ready: I have the financial resources such as savings and paid time-off (vacation, sick days, short-term disability, etc.) to tide me over (and my family, if I have one) while I am being tested, in the hospital for surgery, and away from work while I recover. I also have insurance protection in the event I die or am permanently disabled by the donation.
  • I am spiritually ready: I am driven to donate by the right motives.

You will also need to make sure you have a support system of friends, family, or other people who can help you through this process. You cannot do it alone! You must have other people available to help you as you go through testing, surgery, and recovery. Here are some tips for preparing for and recovering from surgery in the hospital: Surgery Tips. And here are suggested questions a prospective living organ donor might ask of medical professionals: Questions

A federally funded financial assistance program, the National Living Donor Assistance Center, is available to US citizens. The program covers qualifying travel and subsistence expenses for certain living donors. Ask your transplant coordinator to apply for you. More on the program can be found here.

If you have a problem with a transplant program, you can call the UNOS patient service line at 888-894-6361. Patient services staff can be reached by phone from 8:30am to 5:00pm Eastern, Monday through Friday. Voice mail is available outside of these hours.

If you are someone needing a transplant and you wish to find a living donor, visit this LDO web page for ideas.

If you have questions of your own, please post them on the LDO message board. Thank you for your interest in living organ donation!