Live Kidney Donor LetterHelp change federal policy to better support donors and patients with kidney failure.
Our Coalition has written a letter (copied below) from kidney donors who want to promote living kidney donation. This letter is crucial to changing federal policy to better support donors and patients with kidney failure. If you know a living donor, please ask her to read this and sign!
Living Kidney Donors in Support of Donation
We the undersigned kidney donors support efforts to increase living kidney donation.
We did not make our choice to donate lightly. With the help of transplant professionals, we carefully weighed the risks and rewards. The medical professionals we worked with never pressured us to donate. Quite the opposite— they worked hard and in good faith to educate us to make our own informed choice. We are grateful for their support.
We are glad we chose to donate, as are most donors. No surgery is without risk or potential disappointment, but studies have repeatedly found that fewer than one in 20 donors regret their decision. Our hearts go out to those who regret donating: More must be done to reduce their number. Nevertheless, theirs is not the normal donor experience.
The long-term risks of kidney donation are real but manageable:
- a three in 10,000 chance of dying during surgery;
- an increase to a 1% lifetime risk of kidney failure (the general population has a 3% risk but kidney donors start off healthier); and
- for female donors, a 6% increase in the risk of preeclampsia during pregnancy.
Donation neither reduces life expectancy nor prevents donors from living normal, healthy lives. The positive impact of the recipient dwarfs the expected cost to the donor. A living donor kidney lasts an average of fourteen years. By contrast, the five-year survival rate of dialysis is about the same as brain cancer. The impact of a transplant is so striking that recipients often look noticeably healthier as soon as they emerge from surgery.
Thousands of Americans die each year because of the kidney transplant shortage. Increases in deceased donation can never be sufficient to meet this need. It is only by increasing living kidney donation that we can save these patients.
Education and promotion among potential living donors can only improve informed consent. We support policies to:
- Better educate the public, patients, and their families about transplant;
- Expand access to paired kidney donation;
- Expand follow-up study and care; and
- Reduce the costs of donation by reimbursing donor lost wages and travel expenses and by providing health insurance to donors.
Each of these measures would support transplant and increase donation without reducing our system’s strong current commitment to informed consent.
The very patients to whom we donated may need another transplant in the future. More than a hundred thousand patients just like them need a transplant today. Donation is not the right choice for everyone or, indeed, for most people. But we are glad of the choice we made, and we hope it is one that more Americans will be able to make in the future.