If you’re able to have a kidney transplant, the kidney may come from a deceased donor (someone who has died) or a living donor.
What is a living donor?
A living donor is a living person who gives 1 of their kidneys to someone who has kidney failure and needs a transplant (the recipient). Most people are born with 2 kidneys, but you can live a normal life with just 1 kidney. This is why being a living donor is possible and safe.
Who can donate a kidney?
To be a living donor, you must:
- be 18 years or older and able to give informed consent*
- be in good overall health
- have healthy kidneys
* Informed consent means that you understand and agree to the risks and benefits of a test or surgery. You’ll get information about the test or surgery. Once your questions are answered and you understand what’s going to happen, you decide if you want to have the test or surgery.
Deciding to become a donor has to be your own personal decision. You must have stable mental health and be able to give an informed consent. If you’re being pressured or forced to donate, you can’t give informed consent. This will need further evaluation and you may not be accepted as a donor.
Can I be a donor if I smoke?
The Living Donor Program will look at how much you smoke, how long you’ve smoked, and how healthy your lungs are.
Smoking may put you at too high of a risk to donate. You may need to have extra testing if you use or have used or smoked tobacco or marijuana products.
For your own health it’s always best to stop smoking. Quitting smoking may lower your risk for problems with or complications from the surgery. If you’d like help to quit smoking, visit
Can I be a donor if I’m overweight?
The Living Donor Program will look at your overall health to decide if your weight makes surgery too risky for you. Don’t assume you can’t donate a kidney based only on your weight. Talk with your Living Donor team to see if you’re a suitable candidate regardless of your weight.
If you are otherwise a suitable donor, the donor testing or surgery may be delayed until you lose enough weight to lower your risk. Making small changes can go a long way to helping you to be healthier. A good way to start is to choose healthy foods and add more activity to your day.
Check with your family doctor or healthcare provider to see if these changes are right for you.
Can I be a living donor if I live outside of Alberta?
Donors can be from another province or country. If you want to be a donor for someone in Alberta, you’ll need to contact the Living Donor Program office closest to the recipient (person who’s getting the kidney). You may also want to get the name of the Living Donor Program closest to you (the donor). Both programs will work together to manage the testing and evaluation.
As the information on the eligibility of out of country living donors changes occasionally, please contact the Living Donor Program with any questions about out of country living kidney donors.
If someone is interested in helping you by being a living donor, they can contact the Living Donor Program closest to them.
Who can't donate a kidney?
Donating a kidney needs to be safe for you as the donor. Some people may not be able to donate. You will not be able to donate a kidney if you have any of these conditions:
- kidney disease
- serious heart disease
- most types of cancer
If you have one or more of the following conditions, you may be considered as a potential donor once these are treated or no longer a concern.
- uncontrolled high blood pressure
- pregnancy or have been pregnant in the last year
- unhealthy amount of body fat
If you have any questions about whether you can donate, please call one of the Living Donor Programs: