With your decision to donate a kidney, you can give a kidney patient a second chance at life. It is possible to live a normal life with one kidney. This is why someone can give another person a kidney while they are alive. Donating a kidney while you are alive is also called relative or non-relative living donation. Around 400 kidney transplants using organs from living donors are currently carried out every year in the Netherlands. There were 136 at the Erasmus MC last year.
The decision to donate a kidney is something you need to consider carefully. In order to donate, you will need to undergo an operation, so there are risks. Therefore, living donation is a big decision. To determine whether you wish to be a living donor, it is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages. You must be aware of the risks associated with a transplant.
On this page, you will find answers to the following questions:
- Why is living donation so important?
- What are the risks of living donation?
- Will living donation cost me money?
- Are there any religious objections?
Why is living donation so important?
1. Patient’s waiting time reduced
A kidney transplant can significantly improve the quality of life of someone with a kidney disease. However, the waiting list for a kidney from a deceased donor is long: 2.5 to 5 years after starting dialysis.
2. Your donation means a kidney patient will (no longer) need to undergo dialysis.
A patient with very poor renal function will be dependent on haemodialysis or CAPD. This means that their blood is filtered by an artificial kidney. A patient will often need to do this 3 times a week, for 4 hours. Your kidney donation will usually mean a kidney patient no longer needs to undergo dialysis. This will improve the quality of the life of the patient enormously. It is even possible that dialysis may not be necessary at all for a kidney patient, if a living donor offers a kidney in time. This is called pre-emptive transplantation.
3. The donor kidney from a living donor will last longer than a kidney from a deceased donor.
A donor kidney from a deceased donor will work for an average of 10 years. A kidney from a living donor will last twice as long: an average of 20 years.
4. The quality of a kidney from a living donor is better.
The operation can be planned. The time that the new kidney is without blood is shorter. This means that the quality of the new kidney is retained better.
What are the risks of living donation?
1. You will undergo a medical intervention, despite being healthy. Just like any operation, there are risks associated with a kidney donation. Fortunately, the risk of complications is low for this intervention. There is a risk of bleeding or a wound infection, for example. The risk of death is very low, at 0.03%. Despite the chance of complications therefore being low, you need to be aware that these risks are associated with an operation.
2. You will have scars after the operation.
3. You will need time to recover after the operation. After the transplant, the surgery scar will need to heal, which can cause pain and stiffness. It may be a little while before you have your energy back. Experience shows that donors often need 1 to 3 months to recover fully. Because you were healthy before the operation, these restrictions can be very disappointing. It is important to take this into account.
Will living donation cost me money?
In the Netherlands, most costs you will incur as a donor can be offset through compensation or declared to the health insurer. You can find the most important information on the compensation available here.
* For persons who are not resident in The Netherlands, sometimes different rules apply. Please contact us for more information.
Costs you can declare to the health insurer
- The preparatory examinations, admission and aftercare (up to a maximum of 3 months after the donation) will be paid by the health insurance of the recipient.
- Are you participating in a cross-over programme? In this case, the costs will still be paid by your original recipient.
- The costs for the annual check up will be paid by your own insurer. You will not pay any excess on these costs.
- The travel costs from regular donors will be paid by their own insurance. You will not pay any excess on these costs. The travel costs from donors abroad or donors without insurance will be paid by the health insurance of the recipient. Every health insurer determines travel costs based on the number of kilometres travelled. The current guideline is 31 cents per kilometre. The distance travelled is determined on the basis of the ANWB route planner and postal codes. Taxi costs will not be paid for.
- From Januari 1st, 2015 the travel costs will be paid by the health insurance of the donor.
- Are you a salaried employee? If so, it is recommended that you discuss your plans to donate with your employer and/or HR department in advance. You can report sick on the day you are admitted. The UWV (Employee Insurance Agency) will then pay your salary for 6 weeks. Most donors can return to work after a recovery period of 6 weeks.
- You can also report sick for a visit to the polyclinic (longer than 4 hours). Your employer can then settle this with the UWV, at half your daily salary.
The employer will usually continue paying your salary while you are sick, at the same rate as your previous salary. But when the UWV takes over payment, this is based on the basic daily salary without allowances. The sickness benefit may therefore work out lower than your original salary. Some collective labour agreements stipulate that the employer will supplement the benefit to the level of the usual salary. You can look this up yourself.
- Are you self employed? In this case, you will need to be insured against loss of earnings. Check your policy to find out what compensation you will receive. The ‘Living Donation’ subsidy may supplement the compensation.
The ‘Living Donation’ subsidy
For further costs, it is possible to apply for a subsidy. The ‘Living Donation’ subsidy from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport provides financial support for donors. You can apply for a subsidy for costs directly resulting from preparation for the donation, the donation itself or the recovery. For kidney donation, this applies to costs you incur up to 13 weeks after you are discharged from hospital.
Types of compensation
Various types of compensation are available:
- a one-off compensation payment for additional expenditure related to your kidney donation
- compensation for travel and accommodation costs
- compensation for any additional care costs (if medically necessary)
- compensation for temporary care of your relatives (children, parents, partner)
- compensation for lost earnings
Subsidy application form
N.B.: To be eligible for this compensation you will need to meet specific conditions and a referral is often required. You can find more information about this on the application form. To apply for the subsidy, you can complete the form and send it to the Dutch Transplant Foundation. You can contact our social worker for help in this procedure.
Are there any religious objections?
It may be that you do not know if your religious beliefs prevent you from donating. There is often more than one way to interpret religious texts and translate them into every day life. Many religions are in favour of organ donation and transplantation. Organ donation can be seen as a way to save someone’s life. There are also groups who see organ donation differently. If you are unsure about organ donation for this reason, you can discuss your doubts with someone who shares your religious beliefs. We can also put you in contact with the spiritual counsellor at the hospital.