Who Can Donate a Kidney?

who can donate a kidney

More than 90,000 Americans are waiting for a kidney transplant, so deciding to become a kidney donor can save lives. If you are considering becoming a donor for a family, friend, or even a stranger, your incredibly generous gift can allow someone to live a longer, healthier life.

What are the requirements to donate a kidney?

Before you can move forward with a kidney donation, there are basic requirements you’ll need to meet first. For individuals wondering who can donate, kidney transplants have clear criteria for the benefit of the recipient and donor alike.

Generally, a kidney donor must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have normal kidney function
  • Be in good health physically and mentally

In addition to the guidelines above, you will undergo various tests to ensure that you are healthy enough to donate a kidney. If you are hoping to donate to a specific recipient, there will also be testing to determine whether you are a good match.

Testing for kidney donors typically includes:

  • Blood tests
  • Antibody tests
  • Tissue-typing tests
  • Pre-surgery health screening

The health of both the donor and the potential recipient is considered during the screening process. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure the safety of both individuals and the best possible outcome for the kidney recipient. 

What might disqualify you from being a kidney donor?

Certain medical conditions could prevent an individual from becoming a kidney donor, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis
  • Severe infection

In some cases, doctors may also consider whether the prospective donor is a smoker.

Becoming a living kidney donor

Organ donation is often thought to be only possible after death. However, individuals who are still living can also donate kidneys, a lobe of their lung or a section of their liver. 

Living kidney donation is the most common form of living organ donation, largely because most people have two kidneys but only require one to live a healthy life. A kidney from a living donor can last 15 to 20 years compared to 12 to 15 years with a kidney from a deceased donor. 

How to donate a kidney to a family member or friend

If you are considering volunteering as a living kidney donor for someone you know, contact the transplant hospital where they are a patient to inquire about getting tested as a donor. Various tests will be conducted to determine whether you are a match, as well as a medical and psychological examination to confirm that you are well-prepared for surgery.

Once it is determined that you are a match and approved as a donor, then you will make arrangements for the surgery and recovery time. 

Who pays for a kidney transplant from a living donor?

In most cases, the recipient’s health insurance will cover the cost of a kidney donation, including testing and surgery. 

Expenses for travel, missed work, and other factors are only sometimes covered. The National Living Donor Assistance Program can help with the various costs associated with kidney donation, reducing obstacles for donors. In addition, the National Organ Transplant Act allows recipients to contribute to the cost of travel and housing. However, it is illegal for kidney donors to be paid directly for their donation. 

Joining the Organ Donor Registry

When you add your name to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, you can donate your kidneys to someone in need after you die. What’s more, every organ donor can save up to eight lives – an incredible legacy that can profoundly impact the lives of recipients and their loved ones.

Gift of Life Michigan is dedicated to simplifying the process of joining the Michigan Organ Donor Registry. You can sign up on the Donor Registry online in minutes.

Learn more about kidney donation now

If you need more information regarding living kidney donation, you can visit the Transplant Living website or contact the transplant hospital caring for your loved one.

Image credit: SewCream/Shutterstock

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