Who Can Donate?


A donor must be in good health and at least 18 years old. The upper age limit is usually around 60-65, but occasionally even healthy people in their 70’s can donate.  In 2008, a mother who donated a kidney to her son became the oldest donor in the UK . . . at age 81! (See sidebar.)

“My dear wife, at age 71, donated one of her kidneys to me. Our 50th wedding anniversary was six weeks before the operations. Six months have elapsed since the transplant, and now at ages 75 and 72 we are both healthy and enjoying life to the fullest. Here’s hoping that her love and devotion will inspire others to become donors." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx        --Elliott Sperber (Wife, Aileen, donated Jan. 3, 2002.) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx  Living Donors Online


Gender and race do not matter. Typically, someone who has high blood pressure; metastatic cancer; diabetes; kidney, heart, liver, or sickle-cell disease; or infectious diseases such as hepatitis or HIV will not qualify to be a donor. However, these diseases are not absolute contraindications to donation—every donor is considered on an individual basis. A donor can be anyone whose blood type is compatible with the recipient's, is in good physical condition, and generally healthy.


Can smokers be living donors?

Although smokers are not necessarily precluded from donating, smoking is considered a risk to donors. Because smoking damages the lungs, smokers are at higher risk of developing pneumonia after surgery.  While some hospitals do not require that smokers quit during the donation process, it is recommended. 


Potential donors should be honest with the transplant center about smoking habits to ensure that the donation and transplant are successful. If the person is a heavy smoker, he or she might be asked to see a pulmonologist to rule out any respiratory problems.


Can someone who is overweight be a donor?

 Being overweight is actually riskier for the recipient than the donor. There are no absolutes regarding overweight donors; it is a matter of degree and overall health. Of two potential donors of the same gender and weight, one may be eligible while the other may not be.