Everything you need to do about becoming a living donor 

Giving the gift of life to someone in need is a courageous, generous act. At Boston Medical Center, we believe living kidney donors are true heroes. We also understand that the decision to become a living donor is a personal one, with internal motivations unique to each individual. 

Below are answers to common questions from donors that we hope will help you make the best decision for yourself and your family.

Why would my kidney be better than one from a deceased donor?

A kidney from a living donor has a much higher success rate, generally starts to work right after transplant, and lasts longer than one from a deceased donor. In addition, a living donor transplant usually shortens the amount of time a recipient waits to receive a kidney transplant — which means getting off dialysis sooner. Unfortunately, recipients on the kidney transplant waitlist can wait up to 8 years or more for a deceased donor kidney transplant.

What will the surgery and recovery be like for me?

BMC offers a surgical technique called “laparoscopic nephrectomy with hand assist.” This surgery uses small incisions and results in less scarring and a shorter recovery time. Some donors consider this small scar their “badge of honor” for being a live donor.

Your recovery time will depend on how well your body reacts to the surgery. We usually advise planning 4 to 6 weeks recovery before returning to your job. Transplant surgery can be scheduled at your convenience, making it easier to plan.

Who pays for my medical care?

All of your medical bills related to your donation, from testing through surgery and post-operative care, should be covered by the kidney recipient’s health insurance. Some expenses may not be covered, such as travel and lost wages because of time off from work. Our financial services team can help guide you through the process and connect you with the many resources available to kidney donors.

What if I’m not a match?

If you are not a compatible match with your recipient, you may still have the option to give through BMC’s paired exchange or kidney swap program. Through these programs, you may be able to save two or more lives.

Once I decide to donate, can I change my mind? 

Being living a donor is not for everyone, and we will support and respect your decision at any point during the process, no matter what you decide.

You have the right to change your mind about being a living donor at any time. Your reasons for doing so will remain confidential. 

If you decide not to become a donor, but you still want to help, you can be an advocate and help spread the word with family and friends about kidney donation. 

What happens if I donate a kidney and my remaining kidney fails?

The risk of kidney failure after donating a kidney is very rare, in fact, less than 1 percent of donors face this situation 15 years after their donation. If you do need a kidney in the future, you will be prioritized on the kidney transplant list for having previously donated a kidney. 

What if I still have questions?

One of our goals at Boston Medical Center is to be sure that all living donors can ask questions at any time during their journey, to provide any assistance possible, and to create a relationship where the donor feels comfortable and unpressured. The donor coordinators at Boston Medical Center are available to answer any questions you may have. 

As a potential kidney donor, you will also have an Independent Living Donor Advocate (ILDA) available to you throughout the process. ILDAs are advocates for the donor and purposefully work outside of the transplant team to ensure that there is no bias during a donor candidate evaluation. They can answer any questions or address any concerns you may have associated with the transplant process.