About Living Kidney Donation

Live kidney donation typically offers the recipient:
  • A shorter wait for a new kidney (the average wait in the US is 6-8 years for a deceased donor kidney transplant).
  • A better match with less chance of rejection (live donor kidneys are shown to last longer than kidneys from deceased donors).
  • The ability to plan the surgery on an elective basis rather than as an emergency procedure.

Who can be a kidney donor?

All potential donors will undergo a detailed medical screening with a DOVE specialist in order to identify medical or psychosocial barriers to donation such as:

  • Obesity (BMI >32)
  • Age (most donors are over 21)
  • Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer (within 2 years)
  • Strong family history of kidney disease
  • Severe /untreated psychiatric illness
  • Active alcohol/drug abuse

If a donor wishes to donate directly to a particular recipient – blood and tissue typing is necessary early in the process. 

Compatibility is no longer a barrier due to the availability and success of national paired exchange/kidney chain programs.

About Kidney Donation Surgery

Most kidney transplant surgeries are done laparoscopically. Laparoscopic surgery is a surgery method that uses very small cuts on the body and a thin lighted tube to look inside the body. In laparoscopic kidney donor surgery, the surgeon makes small cuts on the donor’s stomach, and the kidney is removed through an incision just big enough for it to fit through. This operation takes 2-3 hours.  The recovery period after laparoscopic surgery is much shorter than after traditional open surgery. There are also fewer complications with laparoscopic surgery.

As a kidney donor, you can generally expect to stay in the hospital for two days after surgery. Most kidney donors resume normal activities after four to six weeks, depending on the physical demands of their daily living and work tasks. You may not be able to drive for up to two weeks. You may have lifting restrictions for at least six weeks. Many donors have reported experiencing fatigue for varied periods of time.

Every transplant center is required to report living donor follow-up data at six months, 12 months and 24 months post-donation.

Protections for Living Donors Enacted Into Law

Over the past 10 years, there have been great strides made in the expansion of benefits and protections for living organ donors. These protections have been further strengthened by the Living Donor Protection Act of 2021.

The Living Donor Protection Act of 2021 will protect living organ donors and promote organ donation in three easy, low-cost ways:

  • Prohibits life, disability, and long-term care insurance companies from denying or limiting coverage and from charging higher premiums for living organ donors.
  • Amends the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to specifically include living organ donation as a serious health condition for private and civil service employees.
  • Directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to update their materials on live organ donation to reflect these new protections and encourage more individuals to consider donating an organ.

Tax Deductions and Credits Available for Living Donors

Many states have already enacted tax deductions or credits to living donors for unreimbursed expenses associated with donation.

There is pending federal legislation that would provide a federal tax credit of up to $5,000 for unreimbursed expenses, including lost wages, for living donors of kidney, liver, lung, pancreas, intestine or bone marrow.

For a state-by-state guide, see the American Transplant Foundation’s Living Donor Leave Laws: Federal and State by State.