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Living Kidney Donations

We understand that kidney disease affects not only the patient, but the entire family by raising questions about living donation. We are here to help you and your loved ones make the best decisions about the different options of care that are available

Living donation is one type of kidney transplant. Through this process, a living person with two healthy kidneys donates one kidney to a relative or close friend with kidney failure. It is generally possible—and safe—to donate a kidney and still have normal kidney function.  Studies have shown that donation does not cause harm to the donor's remaining kidney and that people with one kidney have the same life expectancy as people with two kidneys.

For the kidney recipient, receiving a living donor transplant has a number of advantages over a deceased donor transplant.  For one, there is still a great shortage of deceased donor kidneys creating a need for a waiting list - that is not necessary with living donation.  Furthermore, living donation provides the ability to better plan for surgery.  Statistically, living donor kidneys are less likely to reject and are more successful.

Donating a kidney can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime. However, the possibility of kidney donation raises many questions and concerns. It is quite normal for a potential donor to be afraid, anxious, or even reluctant when they first consider being a kidney donor.  For this reason, at the first part of the living donation process you will meet with a Living Donor Advocate.  The Living Donor Advocate is an independent advocate who is not involved in the care of transplant recipients on a routine basis.  The advocate's role is to serve as a donor's representative who can communicate on the donor's behalf with the medical team and/or obtain additional information to ensure that a donor's decision to donate is informed and free of coercion.

If you are interested in becoming a living donor then please read through the rest of the information available on this site as it is designed to explain living kidney donation and provide a foundation for discussing this critical topic with family, friends, and medical professionals.  If you are serious about becoming a living donor then we ask that you fill out the Living Donor Screening Form on this site as it is an important preliminary screening tool we can use to see if you meet the initial criteria necessary to become a living donor and can therefore move on to the next more involved phase of the process.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have that were not answered on this site or if you are interested in becoming a living donor and would like to set up an appointment with us.

Who Can Donate?

Anyone deemed medically suitable can donate provided they understand the nature of the procedure and the risk to their health, must not be coerced, must provide voluntary consent, must be mentally competent and must be of legal age. Most donors have a relationship with the transplant recipient: family members (parents, siblings, children, grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins), spouses, significant others or friends make up the majority of living donors, However, the number of unrelated donors continues to increase: friends (from church, book club or other activity) or “sympathizers” through social media or billboards may decide to donate to a specific, known patient with end-stage renal disease. And then there are the Good Samaritans: people who decide to selflessly donate one of their kidneys because they know that we need only one. This form of donation, called “non-directed” donation, provides a life-saving organ to a stranger with end-stage renal disease. This “non-directed” organ will then be allocated to the patient with the highest priority on Upstate’s Transplant Program waiting list. 

Types of Living Donations

There are different types of living donation, which generally are determined by two factors - (1) whether the donor and recipient are biologically related and (2) whether the donor is directing the donation. "Directing" means the donor identifies the specific person to whom he or she is donating. The different forms of donation and the terminology used to describe them are as follows:

  • Living related donation: the living donor directs the donation to a specific recipient who is a blood relative (such as a parent, child, or sibling). Looking at United Network Organ Sharing
  • (UNOS) data for living kidney donations made since 1988, about 75% were living related donations.
  • Living unrelated donation: the living donor directs the donation to a specific recipient who is not a blood relative (such as a spouse, a friend, or co-worker). About 24% of living kidney donations since 1988 were living unrelated donations.
  • Living non-directed donation: the living donor does not direct the donation. Instead, the recipient is selected from a list of compatible people on a kidney waiting list. This form of donation is also sometimes called "anonymous."