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Organ and Tissue Donation: Gifting While Still Alive

February 5th, 2013 by Deb Wilson

Some may immediately think of organ donation as occurring after death, however, according to “Donate Life“, in 2011 there were almost as many living donors (6017 or 43%) as deceased donors (8127 or 57%).  Living donation is not an activity to take lightly, but for some it may be a lifesaving decision for a loved one.

The decision to be a living donor is a very personal one and the potential donor must consider the possibility of adverse health effects that could follow donation. In some cases, the decision also may take into consideration the lifesaving potential for a loved one who may be the transplant recipient.

Because all of the effects, especially the long term effects, to the donor are not known at this time, the Federal government does not actively encourage anyone to be a living donor. The Federal government does recognize the wonderful benefit that this gift of life provides to the patient awaiting a transplant and has several ongoing programs to study, support, and protect the living donors who do choose to provide this gift.

The Decision to Donate

The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services website linked above also provides additional information on:

  • what organs/tissues can come from a living donor (the most common is a kidney, but other organs (or part of organs) include liver, lung, pancreas, intestines as well as skin and bone marrow)
  • determining suitability to be a donor
  • follow-up after donation
  • federal assistance that may be available for travel and living expenses of the donor

Several years ago a friend received a kidney from his wife.  When shortly afterwards I asked how he was doing, he commented that he was doing and feeling fine, but his wife was still feeling the effects.  Live organ donation is a decision that should include extensive research, including input from your doctor, on the potential impacts to your health and well-being to ensure you at least understand what to expect from this most generous gift.

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