A living donor is a volunteer who offers to donate an organ or part of an organ for transplantation to another person who may or may not be related, to shorten the wait, family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers (altruistic donors) offer to be living organ donors.
This donation can be directed or non-directed:
In a directed donation, the donor names the specific person to receive the transplant. This is the most common type of living donation
In non-directed donation, the donor does not name the specific person to get the transplant. The match is arranged based on medical compatibility with a patient in need. Some non-directed donors choose never to meet their recipient. And some candidates choose not to meet their donor. And in other cases, the donor and recipient may meet at some time, if they both agree, and if the transplant hospital policy permits it.
A third type of living donation is paired donation, sometimes a transplant candidate has a volunteer who wants to donate an organ to them, but tests reveal that the they would not be a good medical match. Paired donation gives that transplant candidate another option. In paired donation, living donor organs are swapped so each recipient receives a compatible transplant.
Living organ donation saves thousands of lives every year by increasing the donor pool and leaving more organs available for patients in the waiting list and increasing their chances for receiving an organ.
If you are interested in being an organ donor, and wish to obtain further information you can visit United Network for Organs Sharing (UNOS) website or contact a transplant team at your hospital. When learining about living organ donation at a transplant hospital, bring family or friends with you.
Including your family or friends will:
Help you remember what the transplant hospital staff teaches you.
Help you think of questions to ask.
Let your family and friends know the best way to help you.
As a living organ donor, you could give someone else a chance to live, this is known as “The Gift of Life”.
More than 100,000 patients are on the waiting list for an organ transplant in the United States.
Benefits for recipient
Supply of organs is a limiting factor and a significant number of patients die while waiting. Living Donor Organ Donation decreases the waiting time for recipients and has been growing as an important option for many patients, particularly small pediatric patients and those adults that are disadvantaged by the current deceased donor allocation system.
Results of living donor transplant
Donor safety is imperative and cannot be compromised regardless of the implication for the intended recipient. The live donor procedures are considerably more complex than whole organ deceased donor transplantation and there are unique considerations involved in the assessment of any specific recipient and donor.
Results of living donation are comparable to those of deceased donors in terms of patient and graft survival
Patient and graft survival in living liver donation is superior to 90% at 1 year in the United States.
How can I be a living donor?
1. Contact a transplant hospital
If you know a person you would like to help through living directed donation, talk to him or her and contact the transplant program where the person is listed. If you would like to be a living non-directed donor, contact a transplant hospital of your choice to find out if they have this type of donation program.
Visit the OPTN Member Directory for a complete list of transplant hospitals. When you contact transplant hospital staff, they will typically ask for your consent to begin a basic medical screening. With your consent, the transplant hospital staff will ask you questions about your medical history to find out if you have any conditions that would keep you from being a donor.
2. Have an initial screening
This initial screening is typically followed by a blood test to see if you are compatible with the intended transplant candidate. If you are not compatible with that person, you may have other options to donate. These options include paired exchange, blood type incompatible donation or positive crossmatch donation.
3. Get an independent donor advocate
Transplant hospitals are required to provide an independent donor advocate (IDA) or IDA team for all potential donors. Your IDA should not be part of the potential transplant recipient’s medical team. The IDA will assist you during the donation process.
Remember that no one can make the decision to donate for you. And no one should pressure you.
Kitajima, T., Moonka, D., Yeddula, S., Collins, K., Rizzari, M., Yoshida, A., Abouljoud, M.S., Nagai, S., 2021. Outcomes in Living Donor Compared With Deceased Donor Primary Liver Transplantation in Lower Acuity Patients With Model for End‐Stage Liver Disease Scores <30. Liver Transplantation 27, 971–983.. doi:10.1002/lt.25993