Living kidney donors don't shorten their own lives

Six years ago\my colleague Julie Stoiber wrote about her decision to donate a kidney to her sister in-law. The entire episode left me awed by her generosity and bravery. Julie is no longer at the paper, but an study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has reminded me again of how impressed I was and am by her willingness to give of herself to help another.

In Monday's Health & Science section my colleague Marie McCullough writes about the study that could encourage more people to become living kidney donors. Here is an early look at that item:

Donating one of your kidneys can save a life, without shortening your own lifespan.

Johns Hopkins University researchers reached that heartening conclusion by analyzing how 80,347 live kidney donors were doing 15 years after their selfless acts. Although they had a small risk - 3 per 10,000 - of dying within 90 days of surgery, their long-term survival rates were the same as a matched group of healthy individuals who were not kidney donors, according to the study in the March 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This is important because the shortage of donated cadaver kidneys is prompting many end-stage renal disease patients to turn to the living for transplants. More than 6,000 healthy Americans donate a kidney every year.

“The current practice of live kidney donation should continue to be considered a reasonable and safe modality for addressing the profound shortage in deceased donor organs," the authors conclude.

— Marie McCullough