Is organ donation against my religion?
Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most major religions. This includes Roman Catholicism, Islam, most branches of Judaism and most Protestant faiths. If you're unsure of or uncomfortable with your faith's position on donation, ask a member of your clergy. If your religion promotes saving lives, chances are it also supports organ donation. Learn more.
Can someone under age 18 be a living organ donor?
Mayo Clinic has chosen to only evaluate people that are age 18 and older, though other transplant centers may have different rules.
What is the cut-off age for being a living donor?
Generally speaking, for a related living kidney donor we may consider people in their 70s, and for unrelated donors we typically consider people in their 60s as the highest age. The upper age limit for donating part of your liver is 60 years old. The liver needs to regenerate after a part of it is removed for donation, and this regeneration slows down as we age. Learn more about living liver donation.
Can living donation only take place within a family?
Ideally, healthy blood relatives, and in particular, siblings, should be considered first as living kidney and liver donors.
For living kidney transplant, a living donor can donate to any person who is a good match. At Mayo Clinic, people may even donate a kidney anonymously to a stranger – we call this non-directed donation. Often, non-directed donations initiate an “organ donation chain” where on average 15 kidneys are donated and received. In donation chains, the initial non-directed kidney donation goes to someone who had a donor lined up, but the donor was not a match. That donor then “pays forward” their donation to someone else who is waiting.
For living liver transplant, Mayo Clinic requires that donors have a relationship with the person they are donating to. Different transplant centers have different rules regarding living donation.
Are there health reasons that may exclude someone from being able to donate?
Only medical professionals can determine if someone is a suitable donor. Generally speaking, if a person interested in donating has a history of kidney disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, cancers, heart disease, liver disease, lung disease, certain kidney disorders, colon disorders, nerve problems or psychiatric disorders, they may be ruled out as a living donor.
What are the advantages of living donation?
There are a number of benefits of getting an organ from a living donor. Here are a few for both kidney and liver transplants:
Benefits specific to kidney transplants include:
Do living donors have to pay their own medical expenses?
The recipient’s insurance typically covers all donation-related medical expenses. Donors may be eligible for financial assistance for other expenses such as travel, through the National Living Donor Assistance fund, depending on income.
In the course of your evaluation, if the transplant center finds a medical condition requiring treatment that is not associated with donation, you and your personal insurance company would be responsible for treatment costs regarding those conditions.
At Mayo Clinic, a Transplant Financial Coordinator helps donors with this process.
What is involved in becoming a living donor?
Living donation involves an extensive evaluation process to make sure the donor is healthy enough to undergo surgery and is a good match with the recipient. More information about tests and screening can be found here.
What are the qualifications for living donors?
Parents, children, husbands, wives, friends, co-workers –even total strangers for kidney transplants–can be living donor candidates if they meet the qualifications. Living donor candidates should meet these criteria:
Other non-medical criteria also play a critical role. A donor candidate should also:
See our toolkit for more information about qualifications and the donation process.
What is non-directed donation?
Non-directed donors do not have a certain person in mind to receive the kidney. They are living donors who make their donation for altruistic purposes. Often, a non-directed kidney donation begins an “organ donation chain” where multiple kidneys are donated and received. Currently Mayo Clinic accepts non-directed kidney donors, but requires liver donors have a relationship with person they are donating to.
What is paired kidney donation?
If you want to donate a kidney a family member or friend, but are not a good match, you may be part of paired kidney donation. With this kind of donation, you give your kidney to a person who is match for you. That person also has a donor who is not a good fit, but who is match for your friend or family member. Your friend or family member gets a kidney from the other transplant recipient’s donor. In some cases, more than two pair of donors and recipients may be part of a paired donation. Learn more about the Mayo Clinic paired donation experience on our blog.
Do living donors get paid time away from work?
In August 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor issued an opinion letter stating a healthy organ donor can use medical leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), to donate a kidney or part of a liver. Read more about the details of FMLA here, but essentially this means that living donors who are employees with FMLA have up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave with their group health benefits maintained.
Living donors should contact their employer for more information.
Is there risk to the donor with living donation?
As with any surgery, there are risks involved. Some of the risks of this surgery are the same as any surgery: infection, bleeding and blood clots. Rare complications from surgery include heart attack, death and stroke. Although there are risks involved, most donors do not have long-term problems after they donate.
Other possible risks include psychological risks and financial risks. All potential donors meet with an Independent Living Donor Advocate who is able to discuss these risks in further detail.
Will donating a kidney or liver prevent you from becoming pregnant or fathering a child?
No. Studies have shown that donation does not affect becoming pregnant or fathering a child, but it is recommended to wait to become pregnant at least 12 months after surgery. Potential donors should talk with their physician about donation and the effect it could have on future pregnancies.
Once the transplant is scheduled, will it definitely happen?
We want all living donor transplants to be as safe as possible. If the recipient's health declines to the point where he or she is too sick for a transplant, the date of the transplant may change. Timing could also change if the donor or recipient develops an infection or another condition requiring treatment.
The decision to become a donor is voluntary, and donors may change their mind at any time during the process. If the surgery is scheduled and a donor decides not to proceed, the surgery will be cancelled until another living donor or a deceased donor can be found.
Is it normal to have doubts about becoming a living organ donor?
Yes. Many people considering donation experience a wide range of emotions. They are encouraged to seek support by talking with loved ones or those who have donated before. Connect is one easy way to get in touch with others and hear about their experience.
At Mayo Clinic, a Living Donor RN Care Coordinator and an Independent Living Donor Advocate help people considering donation make an informed decision by answering questions and providing support.
Can a donor change their mind?
The decision to become a living donor is voluntary, and donors may change their mind at any time during the process. Every donor’s decisions and reasons are confidential.
Send an email to invite people you know to join the Transplant page.