Generally, altruistic donation is legal, while donation for a reward, or selling an organ is not legal.
Most of transplant centers have education programs about kidney donation. Calling your local transplant center is a good place to start. As a prospective donor, you would have to undergo medical evaluation. Therefore, it is good to prepare questions about how to undergo the medical evaluation when you make your first call. You will also want to know what options are available to cover the medical evaluation.
If you already know the person to whom you want to give a kidney, you may know their blood (ABO) type. Knowing your recipients and your own blood type will help you determine if you are ABO-compatible, which is one of many necessary steps in clinical evaluation before a transplant can happen. If you are not ABO-compatible, you still have options to participate in kidney exchange, such that your intended recipient will still get a kidney. Our partner, the Alliance for Paired Kidney Donation, specializes in directed donations like this.
Generally, if you are healthy enough to donate a kidney, you are healthy enough. Donating a kidney is safe as a rule. In long-term, a living donor may be at higher risk of developing kidney disease, due to having one kidney instead of two. Estimations of exactly how high this risk can be differ between different study. The overall conclusion from the peer-reviewed research is: the life-time risk of developing end-stage kidney disease for people who donated a kidney is lower than 0.5%, and for many people it is lower than 0.1%.
Unlike most of other organs, kidneys can be donated by a living person. In fact, about a third of all transplants in the U.S. is performed with living donors. While many donors are family members who wished to rescue their loved ones, a lot of living donor transplants are performed with altruistic living donors who step forward to make a difference.
For every kidney transplant recipient, the top concern is to preserve their kidney. This is where living donation makes a real difference. There is a significant benefit of getting a living donor transplant in terms of long-term kidney survival, as opposed to deceased donor transplant. Living donor kidneys are simply better transplants.
A lot of people will feel uncomfortable about asking their friends or family members to donate a kidney. This might not be necessary. A lot of times, simply making people aware of your health condition and needs can go a long way. Sharing your story with coworkers, community members, organizations and social group is a good way to start.
A lot of transplant centers have programs in place to assist patients looking for donors. You would need to call your transplant center to discuss any other options that may be available in your area.
if your willing living donor is not medically compatible with you, there is a number of things you can do. The best option would be kidney paired donation. It is a program that started in late 80-s and essentially is exchange of donors between incompatible donor-recipient pairs to form new compatible pairs. This program is now widely popular in the U.S. and is recommended by the United Network of Organ Sharing (https://unos.org/transplant/kidney-paired-donation/).
Your local transplant center typically will have all information about kidney paired donation options available at your area. Some reliable online resources about kidney paired donation include websites of non-profit organizations (https://paireddonation.org/) that performed kidney exchanges, as well as governmental websites (https://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/learn/about-donation/kidney-paired-donation-for-patients/).