Living donors

Receiving a kidney from someone you know (living donor) is the best and most reliable way to receive a kidney transplant. There are many potential benefits of a live donor kidney transplant. These include better long-term outcomes and having a kidney transplant at the right time for you. If someone offers to give you a kidney, please contact the live donor nurses on 020 7317 7604. You have to be suitable to receive a kidney.

Who can donate a kidney to me?

Anybody you know can give you a kidney. The donor does not have to be a relative but you have to prove that you know the person giving you a kidney.

Which people cannot be donors?

All donors will have to go through a thorough screening process to make sure that they are fit enough to give a kidney. We would not take a kidney from anyone with diabetes, high blood pressure on more than one tablet or anyone with serious heart or kidney problems. A serious medical condition or previous cancer would usually rule a person out from being a donor.

Can a person manage with only one kidney?

Before a kidney is removed from the donor, we check very carefully that the donor is fit enough to give a kidney and that they have sufficient kidney function to be left with one kidney. We do not allow donors to give a kidney if they do not pass these tests. There are long-term studies of patients who have given kidneys to other people or patients who have had a kidney removed for other reasons. These people manage well with a single kidney and giving a kidney does not increase their risk of having kidney failure themselves.

Are there any long-term problems from giving away one kidney?

Large studies have been performed on people who have given one kidney to someone else. There does not appear to be any significant risk of serious problems from having donated a kidney. There is a slight increased risk of raised blood pressure and protein in the urine after donation. Therefore there does not seem to be any serious long-term problems from donating a kidney, but we do monitor all donors in the long term to make sure they remain healthy.

What about lost income while my donor is off work?

This depends on the individual’s employer. They are not obliged to pay the donor sick pay while they are off work. Most employers are understanding, so it is not usually a problem. If the employer will not pay, we can claim for lost earnings up to £5,000 from the health authority but the donor has to be able to prove that they have lost money while donating. The claim MUST be submitted before the transplant operation and the live donor nurses can help direct you to the correct person to make the claim.

Can I pay my donor to give me a kidney?

No. The donor has to give you the kidney without any condition and it is illegal to pay your donor for their kidney or provide any incentive for them to donate.

How do I know whether my donor is a suitable match?

Your donor needs to be matched with you to make sure they are a suitable donor. The live donor nurses will arrange an appointment for you and any potential donors to come to the Royal Free for blood tests for matching.

What if my donor does not live in the UK?

We can consider donors from outside the UK (or far away inside the UK) by asking them to post their blood to us for matching. Please ask the live donor nurses for details and a posting pack. If the donor is a suitable match to you, we will ask them to provide some basic medical details and have blood tests and an examination by a doctor in the country where they live. If these tests are all satisfactory, we can write to the home office for a visa to allow your donor to come to the UK to donate a kidney. You will have to look after your donor while they are in the UK and provide their travel expenses and accommodation.

What if my donor is not the same blood group?

A donor with the same or compatible blood group is likely to be your best option for a transplant but if you do not have a donor with a compatible blood group, we can consider a blood group incompatible transplant. You will have to have suitably low levels of antibodies to your donor’s blood group and be strong enough to manage the extra treatment and immunosuppression involved. Your doctor or the live donor nurses can discuss this option with you.

What if my donor is incompatible with me?

Not all donors are compatible with their potential recipient and not everyone wants to have a blood group incompatible transplant. In this case, you can consider the paired exchange program. This is a national scheme where kidney patients with incompatible donors can be matched with other incompatible donors and recipient pairs. The matching happens four times a year and if you get a match, your donor will be asked to give a kidney to someone else and you will receive a kidney from a suitably matched donor. The operations all take place at the same time and your donor will still donate their kidney at the Royal Free. Please ask the live donor nurses about paired exchange if your donor is not compatible with you.

Should I consider having a kidney transplant in another country?

We would not advise having a kidney transplant abroad. Although some patients have received a kidney transplant from abroad, the overall risk of complications and rejection is higher, and the life span of the kidney is often less. In our experience, the risk of infection after the transplant is higher with half the patients developing a resistant infection and a quarter developing hepatitis from their overseas donor.

What do I do if I want to donate a kidney?

Online self-referral form - coming soon.
Join the organ donor register.

Useful downloads

Could I be a living kidney donor?
Being a living kidney donor
Renal donor expenses
Paired exchange scheme
Blood group and antibody incompatible transplantation - coming soon
Altruistic donation

For more information on living donation please contact our live donor nurses on 020 7317 7604 or