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Living Organ Donation

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Topic Overview


More than 100,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ to become available for a transplant that can save their lives. Most organs come from donors who have died. But about half of all organ donors are living donors.

How can you be a living organ donor?

Most people can be organ donors. Many people choose to donate an organ upon their death. But a person can donate certain organs while he or she is still living. These people are called "living donors."

A living donor is:

  • In good general health.
  • Free from diseases that can damage the organs, such as diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure, or cancer.
  • Willing to donate and free from mental health problems.
  • Usually older than age 18.
  • A match with the person receiving the organ.

Who can you donate to?

You can direct your donation to someone you know: a family member, a friend, a coworker, or a person that you know needs an organ. Or you can donate to someone in need by donating to the national waiting list. Medical tests will show if your organ is a good match with the recipient.

How is it decided who gets priority for transplants?

If you do a directed donation, your organ goes only to the person you name. If you donate to the national waiting list, your organ will go to an anonymous person on the list. If you donate to the national waiting list, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network uses a computer to match your organ with possible recipients based on things such as tissue and blood type.

What organs can you donate?

Living donors can donate these organs:

  • A kidney camera.gif
  • A lobe (part) of a lung camera.gif
  • A lobe of your liver camera.gif (It will grow back to normal size in your body and in the recipient's body over time.)
  • A section of your intestine camera.gif
  • A part of your pancreas camera.gif

You can also donate bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, and peripheral blood stem cells.

What's the process for making an organ donation?

When you are a possible living donor, your rights and privacy are carefully protected. It's also very important to be informed about the risks of donating an organ. To help you make the best decision for you, you will have an independent donor advocate (IDA) who will guide you and answer your questions.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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