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Kidney Transplant

Deciding to Donate a Kidney

Becoming a living donor is a personal decision.

As a living donor, you give a transplant recipient the best possible chance of living with a kidney that will work well for a long time. You may also spare your recipient dialysis treatments and a long wait on the national waiting list. Instead, the transplant can take place at a time that is convenient for both of you.
Some donors decide immediately that they would like to donate. One donor who decided very quickly said, “I knew for at least 20 years that someday the recipient would reach a point where she would need a kidney.” Others need more time to think about the effect donation will have on their lives. You may need some time to learn about kidney donation and to figure out if donating a kidney is something you are willing and able to do. It’s very important that you make the decision that feels right for you.

While considering whether to donate, think about:
  • What are your basic feelings and beliefs about organ donation?
  • What are the risks and benefits to you if you donate?
  • What impact will donation have on your relationships with the recipient or your other family members?
  • How will you manage your work responsibilities while you are recovering? Will you take paid time off? Unpaid? Do you have FMLA?
  • Who else might be considered as a donor? How will you all agree on who should be considered first?
  • How will you feel if the evaluation process rules you out as a potential donor?
  • Who will be your support network to help you through this process?   
  • What financial burden might you incur? Do you need to pay for child care? What about travel expenses?
Who should I talk to as I make my decision?
Donors often find it helpful to talk to the recipient, their spouse, their immediate family, doctors and the transplant center staff. Many donors also speak with more distant family members, people at work, a psychologist or social worker, or a spiritual advisor. Some donors also benefit from talking with a living donor who has already gone through the process of donating a kidney.

Keep in mind that you can discuss any concerns or questions you have with the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Transplant Team. None your concerns will be shared with the recipient, your family, or anyone else who is not on the transplant team without your permission. You are also welcome to attend a Kidney Transplant Support Group meeting, where you can talk to other donors and recipients who went through the same process as you.

What if other people pressure me to donate? What if they pressure me not to donate?
It is normal for family and friends whose lives are touched by transplant to feel many emotions. They may feel love for the recipient and hope for a successful transplant. But they may also be troubled by fear for the health of the recipient or by feelings of helplessness, jealousy, or stress. They may also feel love and concern for you. As you are trying to decide whether to be a donor, you may feel confused or pressured by the many opinions and feelings of other people. The transplant team will not put pressure on you to donate. We will respect and support whatever decision you make. In fact, the kidney specialist who will perform the donor evaluation is obligated look out for your interests throughout the process. As one donor commented:
“Listen to what your heart is telling you, not to others who may have another motive for or against donation.”

What if I change my mind about donating?
Sometimes, while going through the evaluation process, a potential donor may realize that donation is not an appropriate option at this time. Donor candidates may opt out of donation up until the time of surgery and the details will be kept confidential from the recipient. Doctors may also stop the transplant if they believe donation is not an appropriate option for the donor.

For additional information or to begin a kidney transplant evaluation, call .

Dan Brennan, MD

Nephrologist, Barnes-Jewish & Washington University Transplant Center

 
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