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You may be thinking about donating an organ to a family member or friend. Or you may want to donate an organ to help someone in need. Donating an organ while you're alive is called a "living donation."
Many people who are ill need an organ transplant to live. But there are a lot more organs needed than are available. One problem is trying to match a donated organ with the body of the person who gets the organ. Blood tests can show how good the match will be. No two bodies are exactly the same. But the better the match, the better the transplant will work.
Make sure to think about how giving an organ may affect your emotions. If you're thinking about being an organ donor, you will be asked if you understand how it may affect you and your family. You will also be asked if you understand how it may affect your health. And you will be asked if you feel pressured to donate an organ.
For many people, making a living organ donation can be rewarding. After a successful transplant, most donors feel a special sense of well-being because they may have helped save a life.
If you're interested in donating organs or tissues, or if you want to learn more, go to the Canadian Blood Services Organs and Tissues for Life webpage (organtissuedonation.ca).
You can direct your donation to someone you know. It could be a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or a person that you know needs an organ. Or you can donate to someone in need by donating to your provincial organ donation organization. You may also want to talk with your doctor about paired organ exchange. This program helps find organ matches between people who may not know each other. Medical tests will show if your organ is a good match with the recipient.
If you do a directed donation, your organ goes only to the person you name. If you donate to your provincial organ donation organization, your organ will go to an anonymous person. A computer is used to match your organ with possible recipients based on things such as tissue and blood type.
Living donors can donate these organs:
You can also donate bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, and peripheral blood stem cells.
When you are a possible living donor, your rights and privacy are carefully protected. It's also very important to be informed about the risks of donating an organ. To help you make the best decision for you, you will have a living donor coordinator who will guide you and answer your questions.
Here are the steps for making a donation:
You can find more information and the location of the nearest transplant centre.
Risks vary with the organ donated and from person to person.
The test results can help match you to an organ recipient.
Throughout the planning process, know that it's never too late to change your mind about donating an organ. Talk with your living donor coordinator and others you trust to be sure you're making the right decision for you. Your long-term health is just as important as that of the person who will receive your donation.
Before you become a living organ donor, tests will be done. These tests include:
This is a blood test that shows whether the recipient's body will reject your donor organ immediately. The cross-match will mix your blood with the recipient's blood to see if proteins in the recipient's blood might attack your donated organ.
This test finds out if the recipient has antibodies against a broad range of people. If so, it means there is a higher risk of rejection, even if the cross-match shows a good match.
This is a blood test that shows which type of blood you have—type A, B, O, or AB. Your blood type should be compatible with the organ recipient's blood type. But doctors can sometimes transplant an organ between people with different blood types.
This blood test shows the genetic makeup of your body's cells. We inherit three different kinds of genetic markers from our mothers and three from our fathers. HLA type sometimes plays a role in matching an organ recipient to a donor.
Many emotional issues are involved in donating an organ. These tests look at your emotional health, your social support, and how donation would affect you and your family. They also show if you understand your own interests, the future effects on your health, and if you're feeling pressure to donate from another person or from a sense of obligation.
Other tests may be done, depending on the organ you're donating.
Two types of surgery are commonly used to remove an organ or a portion of an organ from a living donor.
Living organ donation has risks for both the donor and the person who gets the organ. It's major surgery to take out an organ or a part of an organ. There is always the risk of problems from surgery, such as pain, infection, pneumonia, bleeding, and even death. After the surgery, you may face changes in your body from having one of your organs removed.
Your costs for the transplant surgery will be paid for by your own provincial health plan or the plan of the person who gets the organ. You may get help with some of your travel expenses. But also think of your costs in terms of lost wages, child care, and possible health problems in the future.
Check with your private insurance provider to find out how your donation may affect your coverage.
Adaptation Date: 2/8/2023
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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