Living Donors Q&A

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).

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

When is living donation possible?

Living donation is only possible if the person who donates (the donor) can still live healthily without that organ or tissue. Many types of living donation are of regenerative tissue. This type of tissue grows back naturally after some of it is removed.

Bone marrow is a commonly donated tissue of this type. Blood is also regenerative, but is not discussed in detail on this website as it does not involve an operation.

Non-regenerative tissue does not grow back again once it is removed.

Kidney donation is the most common form of this type of donation. Most people have two kidneys. If one is donated, the remaining one (as long as it is healthy) can carry out the normal functions of both kidneys.

It is also possible to transplant a part of the liver. This is because the liver is able to do the extra work necessary so that both the donor and the person who has had the transplant (the recipient) can be healthy.

Who can be a living donor?

To be a living donor, a person must be in good physical and mental health. They also need to be free from diseases that may affect the health of the person who receives the transplant. Living donors are usually aged between 18 and 60 years old.

In some cases, children may donate regenerative tissue, such as bone marrow, to a close relative.

The donor and recipient usually have matching blood groups and tissue types. A test using the donor’s blood can also show whether the recipient’s immune system is likely to reject the transplant.

New techniques and drugs have made it possible to transplant non-matched organs and tissues. This process is more complex. The person receiving the transplant is more likely to have health problems than they would after a matched transplant.