Living Donation Q&A

Part 1: Living Donation FAQs


What is living donation?

Living donation is when a living person donates an organ or part of an organ to a person in need of a transplant. Living kidney donation is possible because we can live a healthy life with one functioning kidney. Living liver donation is possible because the liver consists of two lobes, one of which can be donated to someone in need. Both lobes will regenerate to normal size and function generally within 6-12 weeks.


Why is living donation important?

Living donation offers another choice for transplant candidates, and reduces the number of people on the national transplant waiting list (from deceased donors). Even better, kidney and liver patients who are able to receive a living donor transplant can receive a good quality organ much sooner, often in less than a year.

The limited number of deceased donor organs cannot meet the growing need for lifesaving organ transplants. Living donation is one way we can give more people access to the lifesaving transplant they need. Other benefits of living donation include:

  • The recipient can be transplanted while in better health and better able to tolerate the surgery.
  • Living donor organs are often better quality and on average last longer than deceased donor organs.
  • Kidney disease patients can avoid years of dialysis.
  • The surgery can be scheduled at a time convenient for both the donor and the recipient.
  • Many living donors refer to the experience as one of their most rewarding achievements.


Does the living donor need to know the person to whom they donate an organ?

No. A person may donate to a specific person they know or anonymously to someone in need. This would be a non-directed donation.


What is involved in the evaluation to be a living donor?

The evaluation is designed to protect both the donor and the recipient. It ensures that the donor is healthy enough for the surgery and is making an informed decision. A potential living donor undergoes both physical and psychosocial examinations. Testing can vary depending on the organ and donor’s age. In addition, routine health screens will need to be up to date before donation can occur. Learn more about living donation health screens from the American Society of Transplantation (AST).


What is paired kidney donation and living donation chains?

Sometimes a transplant candidate has someone who wants to donate a kidney to them, but tests reveal that the kidney would not be a good medical match. Paired donation, also called paired kidney exchange, gives that transplant candidate another option. In paired donation, two or more pairs of living kidney donors and the individuals they want to donate to are swapped to form a compatible medical match. For more detailed information, check with your transplant hospital or learn more about paired kidney donation from