Living Donation

Eighty-one percent (81%) of all of the people waiting for an organ in Wisconsin are waiting for a kidney. Today, that means over 1,900 families are hoping that their loved one will receive the gift of life.

Living donors not only help one specific recipient who receives the kidney, but also reduces the wait for one additional person who is on the waiting list who does not have a living donor.

There are many reasons a person might want to offer to become a living kidney donor.

Through donation, living donors can help to save the life of a patient. Living donors can help a recipient to improve his or her health or quality of life.

When a person receives a kidney from someone they know or someone who comes forward to donate a kidney, the surgery is scheduled at a mutually convenient time. Receiving a kidney from a living donor may decrease the risk of rejection in the recipient since the evaluation process allows the opportunity to find a ‘better match’ for the recipient. Living donation also reduces the amount of time that the kidney is out of one body before it is transplanted into another body.

Each transplant center has specific criteria and requirements for the individuals who can be a living donor. In general, an individual (18 years of age or older)who wants to become a living donor must be in good overall mental and physical health.

Certain medical conditions may prevent a person from becoming a living kidney donor. Since some health conditions/diseases could harm a transplant recipient, it is important that a potential living donor provide the transplant center with accurate answers when asked about conditions like blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, HIV, hepatitis, acute infections, or psychiatric conditions requiring treatment.

A person who wants to be a living donor for someone they know should first contact the potential recipient’s transplant center. Anyone who does not know a person who needs a kidney transplant, but wants to help, should contact a transplant center that is close to where he/she lives or works.

When contacting a transplant center, a potential living donor should ask to speak with the Living Donor Coordinator for kidney transplantation. This person will be able to provide information about the criteria to become a living donor at that center. Many times, an individual will be asked some basic questions over the telephone or mailed a packet of information with some survey questions to answer. The living donor coordinator will help a potential living donor throughout the entire evaluation process.

After the initial contact with the transplant center, potential living donors who are eligible will then begin the psychosocial and medical evaluation process. The evaluation process helps the living donor understand all of the aspects of the donation and transplant process, including the risks and benefits.

This process is organized to protect the potential living donor and to make sure the transplant is as successful as possible. The person who is a potential living donor has the right to delay or stop the evaluation process at any time. The reasons behind any decisions made by a potential living donor are kept confidential.

The transplant recipient’s insurance will cover the expenses of the living donor. These include the tests required for the transplant evaluation, surgery, and some follow-up medical appointments. It is important to understand if the recipient’s insurance will cover follow-up services if there are medical complications from the donation. Personal insurance may not cover these expenses. The recipient’s insurance coverage usually does not include reimbursement for travel, lodging, childcare, or lost wages. A living donor cannot be paid for the donation, but may receive reimbursement for certain expenses related to the donation process.

A person who volunteers to be a living donor for a specific person, may not always be compatible with that person, however, there may be other options to help that person to receive a kidney. These options could include paired exchange or through a larger kidney registry involving transplant centers in other parts of the state or country. The transplant coordinator at the center can explain both of these options.

Sometimes, a person volunteers to donate his/her kidney to someone unknown to them. This is called a non-directed donation. A recipient is matched with this donor based on medical compatibility.

It can be helpful for a potential living donor to talk to other people who have been living donors. The National Kidney Foundation of Wisconsin offers various community educational sessions on living donation that include living donors, recipients and transplant coordinators. Click here to view upcoming programs.

Last updated: December 9, 2016