Questions to Ask As You Consider Living Donation

Donating an organ to someone else is a big decision. There are many factors you must think about carefully. Ask yourself the following questions. Go through them more than once. These questions will help you explore your feelings, your relationship (if any) to the donor, your expectations, your motivation for donating, and whether or not you are ready and willing to donate.

My Knowledge

  • Why do I want to donate my organ to someone else?
  • Do I feel I have received enough education and information to make an informed decision to donate? Do I have any unanswered questions?
  • Have I considered all the benefits and risks of donation to myself and my family?
  • Have I adequately considered and prepared myself for the risks of surgery?
  • Will anyone be upset with me if I do not donate? If so, who?

My Health

  • Am I in good physical shape and able to withstand surgery?
  • Am I prepared to deal with post-operative pain and discomfort from surgery?
  • Is there anything I need to do to improve my physical health and make recovery easier, such as exercising, quitting smoking, or losing weight? Will I need help or support to do this?
  • Am I able to manage my recovery period without falling into problems, such as depression, anxiety, nervousness, boredom? Am I prepared emotionally and financially to seek psychological counseling or help if I need it?
  • Can I handle a complication that may delay my recovery?

My Emotions

  • Have I been honest with myself about why I want to donate an organ?
  • Am I expecting anything in return for my donation? (For example, am I hoping for attention, gratitude, a better relationship with the recipient, or other things?) If so, how will I feel if I do not get these things?
  • Who can I rely on to for practical and emotional support during surgery and recovery?
  • How will I feel if the recipient is not grateful in the way I imagined?
  • How will I feel if the recipient doesn't take care of my donated organ after receiving it?
  • Will I be able to cope if my relationship with the recipient becomes strained or difficult?
  • How will I feel if the organ fails?

My Finances

  • How would living donation affect me financially? Would I lose wages during my recovery? Am I able to get paid leave from my employer?
  • Have I thought about my other obligations and how I will manage them during my recovery period (such as a demanding job, volunteer commitments, young children)?
  • Will I be changing my job or occupations in the near future? If so, how would living donation affect my future employability? Life insurance?
  • Have I thought about what might happen if I have any unexpected health complications from the procedure? Do I have a plan in place for my dependents if I have an unexpected outcome?

Adapted with permission from: Marjorie A. Clay. Education of the donor by the ILDA (Psychosocial Aspects). In: Jennifer Steel, Ed. Living Donor Advocacy: An Evolving Role within Transplantation. New York, NY Springer; 2014: 169-195.

Who can help?

Your transplant center has a social worker who can help you make this decision. The social worker is there to assist you personally and answer all your questions. Your discussions will be kept private and confidential.

You can also call the National Kidney Foundation's NKF Cares Help Line toll-free at 1.855.653.2273 or email nkfcares@kidney.org.

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About NKF Cares
NKF Cares is a free, confidential hotline with trained professionals ready to answer your questions or concerns. Our peer-mentoring program, NKF PEERS, connects anyone affected by kidney disease with an informed and supportive mentor who has already been through the process.