Living Organ Donation

You are here

What is living donation?

Living donation takes place when a living person donates an organ (or part of an organ) for transplantation to another person. The living donor can be a family member, such as a parent, child, brother or sister (living related donation).

Living donation can also come from someone who is emotionally related to the recipient, such as a good friend, spouse or an in-law (living unrelated donation). Thanks to improved medications, a genetic link between the donor and recipient is no longer required to ensure a successful transplant.

In some cases, living donation may even be from a stranger, which is called anonymous or non-directed donation.

What a video about a father donating a kidney to his daughter and truly giving her the gift of life.

What organs can come from living donors?

The organ most commonly given by a living donor is the kidney. Parts of other organs including the lung, liver and pancreas are now being transplanted from living donors.

What are the advantages of living donation over deceased donation?

Kidney transplants performed from living donors may have several advantages compared to transplants performed from deceased donors:

  • Some living donor transplants are done between family members who are genetically similar. A better genetic match lessens the risk of rejection.
  • A kidney from a living donor usually functions immediately, because the kidney is out of the body for a very short time. Some deceased donor kidneys do not function immediately, and as a result, the patient may require dialysis until the kidney starts to function.
  • Potential donors can be tested ahead of time to find the donor who is most compatible with the recipient. The transplant can take place at a time convenient for both the donor and recipient.

Are transplants from living donors always successful?

Although transplantation is highly successful, and success rates continue to improve, problems may occur. Sometimes, the kidney is lost to rejection, surgical complications or the original disease that caused the recipient's kidney to fail. Talk to the transplant center staff about their success rates and the national success rates. Find a transplant center near you.

The kidney transplant waiting list is getting longer and people are waiting for a chance at a better life.  In response, the National Kidney Foundation has developed “THE BIG ASK: THE BIG GIVE.” This initiative features free, interactive workshops that educate and raise awareness about kidney donation and transplantation. Click here for more information or to sign up for an upcoming workshop. 

Quick Facts:

  • A live organ can come from a family member, good friend, spouse, in-law or even from a stranger. Thanks to improved medications, a genetic link between the donor and recipient is no longer required to ensure a successful transplant.
  • To donate a kidney, you must be in good health and have normal kidney function.
  • Donors are never financially compensated. Under federal law, it is illegal to receive money or gifts in exchange for an organ donation.
  • If you are considering living donation it is important to educate yourself and make sure you understand the risks and benefits of donation.


Living Donation Fact Sheet- NKFM

Living Donation packet- UNOS

Web Links:

Big Ask Big Give- National Kidney Foundation

United Network for Organ Sharing

United States Department of Health & Human Services

Donate Life America

NKF Peers Program

American Society of Transplant Surgeons

National Living Donor Assistance Center

NKF of Illinois: Hispanics/Latinos are 1.5 times more likely than non-Hispanics to suffer from kidney failure. If you or someone you know has kidney disease, get the facts about treatment options from this bilingual website: