Can I donate an organ or tissue while I am alive?
You may donate an organ/tissue such as a kidney or part of the liver to a person who needs it while you are alive. There are strict rules for this form of donation.
Suitable organs and tissues
Living donation involves the transplantation of organs and tissues from a living donor. The following organs and tissues are suitable for donation:
- Kidney and liver
People can donate a kidney or a part of their liver while alive. Read more about kidney donation and liver donation on the website of the Dutch Transplant Foundation.
Sometimes after an operation there is some tissue left over which cannot be put back into the body, e.g. the head of the thigh bone after a total hip replacement. This is called residual material and it is potentially suitable for donation.
- Stem cells
In stem cell transplantation, a doctor removes stem cells from the blood of a healthy donor. A donor can donate stem cells to patients with leukaemia or another form of blood cancer. Read more about stem cell donation. You can register to become a stem cell donor on the Matchis website. It is not possible to become a stem cell donor via the Donor Register.
- Umbilical cord blood
Directly after birth blood can be collected from the umbilical cord. The stem cells in this blood are the basis on which blood cells and immune system cells are formed. The stem cells from umbilical cord blood can be used for stem cell transplantations, for example for people with leukaemia (blood cancer). Read more about donating umbilical cord blood on Sanquin’s website.
- Blood and blood plasma
Donated blood is vitally important for patients who have lost a lot of blood, for example, during childbirth or in an accident. Men can donate blood up to 5 times a year. For women this is up to 3 times a year, as they have lower body iron reserves.
Donating blood plasma is less stressful for the body than donating blood. First a machine separates the blood cells from the plasma, after which the plasma stays in the machine and the donor’s blood cells are returned to their body. Read more about donating blood plasma.
- Breast milk
If a mother who has just given birth has more than enough milk for her own baby, she can donate some of her breast milk to the Breast Milk Bank. The donated milk is used to feed premature babies. Read more about donating breast milk to the Breast Milk Bank (in Dutch).
The Dutch Donor Faeces Bank collects faeces from healthy people. By transplanting the beneficial bacteria from donated faeces they can help people with abnormal bowel flora.
Conditions for donating living organ/tissue
Living organ/tissue donation is becoming more common, partly because there are so many people on the waiting list for transplants. Living organ donation is regulated by strict rules:
- Donation may not cause lasting damage to the health of the donor. In very exceptional circumstances, this condition may be waived, for instance if the recipient is in a critical condition and there are no alternative donors.
- Children and young people under 18 years of age may only donate organs and tissue that can grow back again, such as stem cells (bone marrow) or part of the liver.
- The donor may not receive payment for the donation.
- The donor must not have been put under pressure to donate an organ or tissue.