October 23, 2021 12:57 am

Donate a kidney

With so many people on transplant waiting lists and so few organs available, the fact that it is possible for a person to donate one of their two kidneys, or even a portion of their liver, to another person in need offers an incredible and life-changing opportunity for both the recipient and the living donor.

Very often the opportunity to donate a kidney donate will arise when a family member or close friend suffers liver or kidney failure. Even in the case of an altruistic donation, (when someone donates to a stranger) the impulse to donate often comes from seeing a loved one suffer, or indeed recover when they receive a much-needed organ. However, perhaps more impressively, some altruistic donations are now inspired by a simple desire to give something back to the world.

Ten years ago the only option for kidney donation was open surgery, but in recent years more and more kidney donations are being carried out through keyhole surgery. This is designed to reduce the trauma and recovery time and so has opened up the option to donate for many more.

Yet however simple and straightforward the surgery may seem, it is still a highly unusual situation that presents difficult questions for donors, recipients and even medical staff, as it is essentially taking someone in good health and carrying out highly invasive, unnecessary surgery on them for the good of another. In fact it directly contravenes one of medicine’s most basic tenets “First do no harm.”

Although serious problems for the donor are statistically rare, they do occur. Even if everything goes according to plan, the surgery may well be the first time that the donor has had to spend time in hospital, or deal with the medical profession, and they may well feel as if they have been thrown in at the deep end.

The long term prognosis for kidney donors is excellent; they are statistically likely to live longer than non-donors, and it is entirely possible for female donors to become pregnant afterwards (with only a very slightly elevated chance of developing complications), but removing a kidney can be a traumatic operation with serious musculoskeletal effects, with both short and long term impact on general health.

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