Who Can Donate a Liver?

Medically Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on October 20, 2020

If you want to donate part of your liver to someone who needs a new one, you'll need to check to see if you've got the right profile. The government and transplant centers have rules about who can and can't be a donor.

You Must Want to Do It

You're the only one who can decide to donate part of your liver. It's illegal for anyone to force you to do it. It's also against the law to sell organs.

Transplant centers always make sure that their donors are doing this of their own free will, and you'll need to sign a consent form. You have the right to back out at any time.

You're a Family Member or Friend

If you're a blood relative, it's more likely that your blood type will be a good match for the person getting part of your liver. Some transplant centers, though, let you donate part of your liver to someone you don't know who's on the organ transplant waiting list.

You're in the Right Age Group

Most transplant centers want you to be between 18 and 60 years old, although the exact age range varies. The reason is that older donors tend to have more complications than younger ones. Transplant centers also consider children and teens to be too young to give the proper consent.

Your Blood Type Is a Good Match

You don't have to have the exact blood type as the person who needs a new liver, but you need to be what's called "compatible." Here's how it works:

  • If you have Type O blood, you are a "universal donor" and can donate to anyone (although Type O liver recipients can only get organs from people who are also Type O).
  • If you are Type A, you can donate to those who are also Type A as well as Type AB.
  • Type B blood types can donate to other Type Bs and to Type ABs.
  • Type AB people can donate to those with that same blood type.

Your Rh factor (whether your blood type is "positive" or "negative") doesn't play a role.

You're in Better-Than-Good Physical Health

If you want to be a donor, your liver, kidneys, and thyroid need to be working right. Transplant centers also want to know that you don't have medical problems like these:

  • Liver disease, including hepatitis
  • Diabetes (or a strong family history of the disease)
  • Heart, kidney, or lung disease
  • Gastrointestinal disease, autoimmune disorders, neurologic disease, and certain blood disorders
  • Cancer (or once had some types of cancer)
  • High blood pressure that's not under control
  • Current or long-term infections, including hepatitis C
  • Use of alcohol or recreational drugs, including marijuana

You can't be a donor if you're obese or pregnant. You may also be disqualified if you take pain medications or drugs that are toxic to your liver.

To make sure you're healthy enough to donate, you'll have to have a general physical exam. You also may need to take blood and urine tests, a mammogram (for women over 40), a colonoscopy (for men and women over 50), heart tests, and X-rays.

You Must Be Mentally Healthy

You'll need to get checked by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker to make sure you don't have mental health issues, such as anxiety, that might affect your own recovery. They will ask you about behavior that puts you at high risk for infectious diseases. And they'll want to know that you have a good social, emotional, and financial support system lined up for the period after surgery.

You Can't Smoke

Quitting tobacco 1-2 months before surgery can help lower the oddsof complications. Quitting smoking even right before surgery can increase the amount of oxygen in your body. After 24 hours without smoking, nicotine and carbon monoxide are already gradually broken down in the blood. Your lungs start to work better after about 2 smoke-free months.

You Need to Be the Right Size

Many transplant centers prefer to do living-donor transplants between two people who are roughly the same size (by height and weight), although it's not a hard and fast rule.

WebMD Medical Reference



Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Living Donor Liver Transplant," "The Liver Donor Evaluation Process," "What to Expect as a Liver Donor."

Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network: "Policies."

University of Maryland Medical Center: "Living Donor Liver Transplant."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "The Living Donation Process."

American Transplant Foundation: "About Living Donation."

United Network for Organ Sharing: "Living Donation: Information you need to know."

Columbia University Center for Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation: "Living Donor Liver Transplantation FAQs."

University of Wisconsin Health: "Live Liver Donation Frequently Asked Questions."

Liver Transplantation: "Utilization of elderly donors in living donor liver transplantation: When more is less?"

Seattle Children's Hospital: "A Closer Look: Transplant with Dr. Patrick Healey."

Lahey Hospital & Medical Center: "Liver Donor Requirements & Qualifications."

International Association of Living Organ Donors: "Assessment of Potential Donors."

UC Davis Health System: "Donor Selection Criteria."

University of California, San Francisco: "Living Liver Donor Transplant."

Cleveland Clinic Transplant Center: "What You Need to Know About Adult Living Donor Liver Transplantation."

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