With over 100,000 people waiting for organ transplants in the United States, the need for donors is substantial. While registering as a donor after your death can help others, you also can be a living donor through the donation of one kidney or a section of your liver, lung, pancreas or intestine.
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One of the largest risks to being a living organ donor is that major surgery is required for the recovery of the donated organ. While some kidneys can be recovered laparoscopically, with only small incisions, there is still risk of other complications. These complications include reaction to anesthesia, blood clots, the need for a blood transfusion, post-operative infections and surgical complications.
After donating an organ, the donor could develop a disease or condition that compromises the function of the donor's remaining organs. While many people can live long, healthy lives with only one kidney or only part of an intestine, the development of a condition such as diabetes or short gut syndrome, for example, could have more serious consequences for a donor.
The Cost to the Donor
The actual medical costs of the donation and transplant are usually covered by the recipient's insurance. Some of the donor's costs might not be covered, including travel to the transplant center, lodging during the testing and matching process, annual physicals both before and after the donation, lost wages during the donor's recovery, the treatment of any conditions or diseases discovered during the donor's pre-donation exams and other non-medical expenses.
Legally, a donor is not allowed to receive any money for organ donation.
Many recipients experience psychological complications after donating an organ. Depression and anxiety are common, both because of the difficult recovery process and because attention and concern often shifts to the recipient after the surgery. A strong support system can help with this difficulty. If the recipient does not recover fully after surgery or the rejection is unsuccessful, grief can be substantial.