Fast Facts

Einstein photo scrawling Get the Facts about Living Organ Donation on the blackboard

Any live donor, even if its a total mismatch is better than the best deceased donor,” says Dr. Shield of St. Francis Hospital, Kansas, “Kidneys from a living donor are always healthier.”

Benefit to the recipient is the primary reason why the transplant industry emphasizes living organ donations over the prevention of end-stage renal failure, improving the quality of life on dialysis, the artificial kidney, or maximizing deceased donation by fixing the waitlist and eliminating geographical hording. Unfortunately, the industry tends to forget that living donors are people with families, friends and futures, not just organ incubators.

  • 1/3 of persons on the national transplant wait list are considered ‘inactive‘, ineligible for surgery even if an organ become available. 52% of deaths on the transplant waitlist are of inactives (57)   [See About the Wait List for more]
  • Hospitals/transplant centers charge $400,000 – $500,000 for liver transplant surgery.(64)
  • Medicare pays an average of $106,000 for a kidney transplant, regardless of whether the kidney comes from a living or deceased donor. And living donor transplants generally cost less — about 15 to 20 percent less at the university hospital, for example. That means the hospital stands to make 15 to 20 percent more per transplant surgery.(97)
  • It is illegal in the U.S. to accept payment of any kind for an organ. However, NOTA 1984 states that reasonable payments for expenses related to travel, wages lost and housing incurred during living organ donation is permissible.   [See Legal for more]
  • A 2010 analysis shows that 18% of living organ donors are uninsured at time of donation (208). Because nearly half of living donors during this period didn’t have a reported insurance status, the real number is most likely much higher.

[Note: Not having health insurance leaves living donors vulnerable to medical costs related to complications, as well unable to procure follow-up care. Consequently, complications from living organ donation are severely underreported. See Living Donor Bills & Insurance for more on how living donors can protect themselves from unpaid costs]

  • There is no law in the U.S. preventing insurance companies from denying coverage based on living donation. It is considered an elective procedure, and the lack of a kidney a ‘pre-existing condition’. NY Attorney General released the following statement allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to living donors in 2008.

[Note: The Affordable Health Care Law of 2010 eliminates denial of insurance based on pre-existing conditions, but living kidney donors have reported being forced into the high-risk pool.]

  • A 2004 World Transplant Consortium admitted that some physicians will not report a medical issue as a consequence of living donorship out of fear of retribution for the donor from their insurance company.
  • Livers are the only organs that regenerate. However, an adult recipient takes 65-70% of a donor’s liver, and there is NO clinical data on how that sort of loss affects an individual short or long-term.    [See Liver Donation section for more]
  • A living donor’s remaining kidney will hypertrophy, but will never regain pre-donation kidney function.  [See Myths and Kidneys for more on hypertrophy]
  • Living donor organs compose approximately 47% of all transplanted organs in the U.S.