Benefits and Risks
We strongly recommend every individual intending to donate an organ, part of an organ, or bone marrow, to weigh all the pros and cons, including the costs and benefits of any medical decision. The benefits of being a living organ donor are obvious – you are taking a very noble step by trying to save a life. The negatives, however, are less obvious. While the act of donation can help someone live a better, longer life, the act of donation has effects, sometimes prolonged effects, on donors. We are not trying to discourage you when we provide the following list, but we want to help you think through your decision carefully.
- You help save or improve a life.
- You should feel good about yourself because you’ve done something noble, good or took a substantial step towards doing something good.
- You can, if you choose, become part of the living donor community.
- Generally, but not always, people react positively to learning someone is an organ donor.
- Helping another person may contribute to your own sense of purpose in life.
- Medical risks. Donating an organ carries medical risks including the risks of anesthesia, the transplant and other surgery(ies), infection, and possible short and long-term complications. Please read carefully the informed consent form provided by the transplant center where you are donating. You should also supplement what you read here with outside reading to inform yourself further. Some information is provided on this website’s “articles” tab. Sigrid has also compiled a list of post-donation complications reported by living organ donors. That list can be found —here–. The OPTN/SRTR 2014 Annual Report includes data on living organ donor risks and deaths. That page can be found –-here —. The entire report is –here–.
- Time. Arranging a donation can take months. You will need to take time off work or be away from your other responsibilities to undergo pre-surgery testing, the surgery itself, and for recovery. Make sure you discuss recovery time with your healthcare professionals. Many factors can affect the length of time required for recovery: complications during or after surgery, your age, the type of work you do (donors whose jobs or everyday life involve heavy lifting will need more recovery time before returning to those activities).
- Using up reserve benefits. Check the “Benefits by State” tab on this website to see if your state has special organ donation leave provisions for which you qualify. Also consider whether you have to use up vacation, sick leave, or your disability benefits to donate.
- Money. It costs money to donate. You may have travel and lodging expenses, lost income, or childcare, elder care, and pet care costs, as well as, other household expenses. This list is not exhaustive and expenses will vary depending on your individual or family circumstances. Please note that it is also a cost of donating when a family member takes off work to take care of you or to help you with your daily responsibilities. Please see the “Benefits by State” tab on this website to see if your state allows tax credits or deductions for donation related expenses or to see if there are local resources you may call on to help cover or prevent such costs.
- Favors. You may need to ask friends or relatives to help out. Someone will need to drop you off at the hospital the day of surgery, attend to you while you are at the hospital, and pick you up once you are released to go home. Someone will also need to stay with you for several days or even weeks to make sure you are alright and to assist you in household and personal matters while you recover. There may also be other work, family, household, or personal responsibilities you may need to ask people to help take care of for you.
- Opportunity costs. Consider whether there are projects at work or at home that you will need to put on hold while your attention is directed toward the organ donation process. An important question to ask is whether, by the act and process of donation, you will risk career or personal advancement, risk losing a potential promotion, diminish available leave entitlement.
- Insurance. Please look into the impact your donation may have on your current or future insurance coverage, not just health, but also long-term care or life insurance.
- A rather comprehensive list of potential medical risks can be found at livingdonor101, click on menu tab “risks” or see the list referenced above which is an unscientific but more plain English list of potential risks –here-–
We at the American Living Organ Donor Fund consider people who donate organs to be heroes. Putting oneself at risk to save another is an honorable and praiseworthy act. Perhaps its closest cousin is saving a life on the battlefield or being an emergency responder. Noble as it is to be a living organ donor, it is a step that should be taken with your eyes wide open. A well-informed decision is a more meaningful decision!! Please educate yourself and make read all informed consent forms the transplant center provides you carefully.