Altruistic donation was only legalised in the UK in late 2006. Initially no one came forward. Then, in 2007-08, 10 people did so. That rose to 15 the next year, then to 23, then to 40 in 2010-11.

Latest statistics show there have been 88 volunteers who have ranged from those in their mid-20s to people in their mid-70s, with an average age of 52. Slightly more men than women do it. Quite a few of them are doctors or nurses, often retired.

I think it so wonderful that altrustic donation is on the rise so much in the UK. When I went for my evaluation in Feb 2009 only 32 people had donated so far. Now it is 88 in total (probably more now). This year should see it reach 100?

I know two people who are virtually at the point of getting approval and one who is donating soon.

Anyone thinking of donating, whether to someone you know or to a stranger, then read my blog so you understand the donor process a bit more, do some research and if possible get to speak to donors. I just know that if I could, I would not hesitate to donate again. I was not expecting or wanting to get anything out of donating, but I did. Each time I think of the recipient, I get a wonderful warm feeling inside me knowing there is a family out there who now has a second chance at life. I have no regrets at all about donating and if I can give support to anyone else donating, then I will.




15 Responses to “Altruistic Kidney Donation in the UK”

  • supered:

    Di –

    A couple of questions – I’m 29 years old, and am interested in donating. However! There are a couple of issues. 1.) My girlfriend is pretty anti – when I raised it in a very ‘not that I am actually interested’ way – although she doesn’t know a huge amount about the risks etc, and 2.) I have been on anti-depressants for 2 years. Although I am currently on a very low dosage, and am looking to come off them very soon. I mention this as I understand there is a psychiatric ‘test’ to determine one’s mental fitness to donate.

    If you get time to respond to these questions, I’d be really appreciative.

    Thanks so much..

  • Diane:

    Hi there,
    Thanks for taking the time to post.

    1) Her reaction is a natural one, it is hard for someone to understand why someone would want to do this etc and it sounds a lot scarier than it actualy is! You need to give her time to understand what the process involves. The risks – which are low risks and for her to understand why you want to do this. For her to understand that living with one kidney is fine. The surgery these days is very good as far as recovery time etc. Find out all the information you can on the internet and present it to her. If you would like I can have a “chat” with her so she can ask me questions as to what it is like from donor perspective. But don’t push her into understanding or try and pressure her. She has to understand and accept in her own time.

    2) Depending on the hospital there is either a psychiatric or psychological examination or both. I am sure they will ask you about why you are/were taking anti depressants but I am in no position to comment on what they would say as I really do not know. Your best bet would be to make a preliminary appointment with the Living Donor Coordinator at your local centre and put that question to her/him. It will also be a good opportunity to put any other questions you have regarding the process.

    Sorry I cannot be of more help but I am not medically trained so really cannot answer that one.

    Good for you for wanting to do this. Can I be nosey and ask what inspired you to do this?

    I would like to know how you get on, so if you feel like posting back when you find out more, that would be great.

    All the best and good luck with moving forward on this.


  • supered:

    Diane –
    Thanks very much for your reply; I’m very grateful.
    I was kind of inspired to at least think about doing this by reading an article by the ethicist Peter Singer, who mentioned an American philanthropist who donated a kidney. His argument for doing it was very persuasive. This is the article: –
    (It’s not primarily about organ donation!)
    I think, actually, what’s really worrying me about this is the reaction of my girlfriend, more than the risks involved. When I did bring it up a few days ago (but just as a general topic, rather than a personal ‘I’m going to do this’ topic), she mentioned my kids (I don’t have any yet!) and what I would do if they ever needed a transplant… I kind of fear she’ll bring this up again, and I’m not sure if I have a fail-safe argument!

    One more question, Diane – I’m based in London. I don’t suppose you know which might be the best hospital to contact to arrange a meeting with a Living Donor Coordinator do you?

    Thanks so much for all your assistance!

  • Diane:

    Hi there,
    Zell Kravinsky. He is one of my heroes. If I had a list of people to meet he would be way up at the top. I mention him briefly in my blog.

    What if your future kids need a kidney. Well I have a son and my son comes first. He is 31 years old now but I still involved him in my decision making. We do not have any history of high blood pressure in our family (including parents, siblings etc etc). No diabetes either. There is nothing to suggest that either I or any family member would get kidney disease. Of course that does not mean that none of us will, but we live a healthy lifestyle. We eat healthily etc etc. The chances are very unlikely kidney disease would rear its ugly head. Also just because I am my son’s mother it does not mean that I would be a good match for him. There are other things besides compatible blood type that is taken into account. Also we cannot live our lives on “what if’s”. The Living Donor team will assess you. They will ask question about family health and determine whether kidney problems are “likely”. If any future child was in an accident of some sort which damaged both kidney then another family member could come forward. But having an accident like that would be highly unlikely – but could happen. There is no fail-safe argument as one of your kids could one day require a kidney. Just that a) unlikely, assuming nothing in family to suggest potenial kidney problems etc and b) you are not the only person who could give a kidney c) you wont necessarily be a match anyway. I will say though, had my son been dead against me donating, then I would not have. There are plenty of years ahead in which I could have donated should my son have ever changed his mind. To me my family came first in decision making about something this huge, because having a major operation and removing an organ is a huge thing for the donor and it does affect family also.

    Also there is no rush is there? I mean if you donate this year, next year or year after. So don’t rush things, don’t rush your girlfriend. Even if it takes months and months before she fully understands the implications and all about it. Let her go with you to a meeting with a co-ordinator so she can ask questions. Better she be given correct answers by those that really know than maybe you guess at them. Maybe you can say to her you just want to get all the information first before making any decision one way or other and you would like her to go along with you?? Just a thought. I am always here if she wants to contact a donor for herself. It can be by email if she wants.

    London donor hospitals. Depending where in London you live check out this link for London Transplant Centres.

    Not sure if I have helped at all. Let me know how you get on.

  • supered:

    That’s really very helpful – thank you so much Diane. I will certainly mention you as someone that she could email etc in the future if she would like to.
    You’re a star! Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my queries. No doubt we’ll speak again soon…

  • Diane:

    okay, glad to help where I can.

  • Therese:

    Hi Diane, this is a comment for Suppered, I understand his dilema, My partner was initially against my AD and I worried if any of my 5 kids might need a kidney in the future what would I do. It was also most peoples reaction and I hadn’t got a good arguement to retaliate.
    But Tell him to talk to his co ordinator they will guide him and although there’s no legal set up now to “promise” preferential treatment for relatives of altruistic donators, Renal departments remember and appreciate donators and will do everything humanly/legally possible to help out past donators . At least that was what I was told and it helped me

  • Diane:

    Just because we are related to our children etc does not mean we would be a match. Most relatives are not a match. So waiting around just in case one of our kids should need a kidney … apart from which there are other relatives and friends etc. We cannot put our lives on hold “just in case”. I mean if we did that, why do we go out in our cars? Accident rates are high, yet noone says “you cant drive your car, what if you get killed”.

    I have to say that is the very first time I have heard any hospital say they will give preferential treatment to past donors. Legally if a donor needs a kidney they have to go on the waiting list like everyone else … I cannot see any legal set up being done to give donors preferential treatment to be honest. But then hopefully not many donors would eventually need a transplant themselves.

  • Michael:

    Hi Di, the web site makes very interesting reading – I think I’ve read most of it over the past few months. I am in the process for a non directed kidney donation an am now awaiting the next stage , a kidney biopsy. But I have just read one of your comments re lead time on the whole process and that you would have liked to know just how longitbwould take. I feel exactly the same – how long did it take from initial inquiry to the operation? Looking forward to hearing from you. Michael

  • Diane:

    Hi Michael,
    Why are you having a kidney biopsy do you know?
    How long did the whole thing take, well there were hold ups that should not have happened, so if I take those away then altogether from first appointment to actually donating was around a year. The evaluation took 8 months (ish) but it took 4 months to locate a suitable recipient from the database and arrange the final tests and to book operation date as of course two hospitals are involved. Normally though it would not take 4 months the latter part that was unusuallly long time but it can certainly take a few weeks from getting a recipient to donation date.

  • Diane:

    oops sorry forgot to sign my post, lol …

  • kevin:

    Hi Di
    If i wish to donate a kidney to a stranger do i have the rights to choose the person by photo and even meet that person

  • Diane:

    Hi Kevin,
    No, I am afraid you cannot choose who you donate to. Donating to a stranger is just that, someone you don’t know and cannot choose. It is purely atruistic. But it will be the very next person on the waiting list who is in desperate need of a kidney. Once you have donated, you can ask to meet the recipient and if they agree a meeting can then be set up. But as far as the NHS is concerned, kidney’s go to the person most in need on the waiting list.
    Thanks for posting
    All the best

  • tony stephens:

    Hi Di just to let you know that i altruistically donated. if I can give any advice for people also looking into doing this, my wife and auntie are now thinking about phoning the transplant coordinator to start the process.

    Please do it, it is so worthwhile words cant explain it

  • Diane:

    Well done Tony!!!
    So pleased your wife and auntie are also thinking of donating ….. numbers are increasing all the time!
    Great news 🙂

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