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Living Donation: What Is Informed Consent And Why Do I Need It To Become A Living Kidney Donor?

Are you considering giving one of your kidneys to someone in need? A good living donor candidate is healthy, well-informed, and makes a voluntary decision to donate. If you are a potential living donor, you will be starting an amazing journey. But before you can donate, the transplant center must make sure you are healthy enough to donate, and emotionally prepared for what it involves.
As part of this process, you will be given a physical and mental evaluation. You will also meet with a person who has been assigned by the transplant center to protect your rights. This person is called an Independent Living Donor Advocate (your "advocate"). The purpose? To make sure you are donating a kidney voluntarily and that you understand the benefits and risks. This is called "informed consent."

What is Informed Consent?

Informed consent is a term that means several things. In short, it means you have been informed of the benefits and risks, and that you have the mental capacity to:

  • Understand information. Being given information does little good unless you can understand it.
  • Make rational decisions. Before you can consent to giving an organ, you must have the mental capacity to make rational decisions for yourself.
  • Consent voluntarily. Consent is valid only if it is given voluntarily, without the threat of punishment or coerced through reward.

You and your advocate will meet at least once to talk together. You will be asked about your reasons for considering donation. This is done to make sure there is no pressure from your friends or family, no promise of financial incentive or improved relationships, and that your expectations are realistic.

This is also an opportunity for you to express yourself more fully than you might be able to with family or the recipient present. What you discuss will be kept private and confidential. You will be encouraged to explore all your emotions about donating, including any concerns, doubts, hopes, motivations, or fears you might have. You may be asked about your family, and how living donation might possibly affect your relationships. All this is done to make sure you understand and are prepared for the ways in which living donation might affect you emotionally.

Your advocate will also help you understand the "nuts and bolts" of living donation, including the risks and benefits. You will be told about alternative procedures or types of treatments that are available to the recipient, such as dialysis or transplant from a deceased donor.

You will also have an opportunity to ask questions. For example, you may wonder how long your donated kidney might last? Or how much of a health improvement your recipient will gain from your kidney. You should feel free to ask questions, especially those you may not feel comfortable asking the recipient. It is an important part of this process.

What if I decide not to donate?

Your decision to donate a kidney must be completely voluntary and free from pressure. Your advocate will help you better understand your feelings about donation, so that you can make a decision that's right for you. In the end, you have the right to decide that donating a kidney is not for you. The reasons for your decision will be kept private and confidential by your advocate and the transplant team.

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