It is a sobering reality that half of the Kidney Transplant Waiting List candidates over the age of 60 will die before receiving an organ from a deceased donor. Still it is not likely that a healthy, willing, good match living kidney donor who happens to be 70 or older will be accepted to donate his/her kidney. Hence, with life and death in the balance, should there be any upper age limit for kidney donation?
More than half of U.S. Kidney Transplant Centers do not have upper age limits for Kidney Transplant Recipients and nearly three-quarters of transplant centers have not accepted kidneys from people older than 70. In 2011only 96 people age 65 and older served as Living Kidney Donors in the United States and altogether, 1,382 older adults have done so since 1988, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). Many older adults, Nephrologists, and even Transplant Surgeons are aware that many individuals over 70 have been organ donors without any complications.
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These seniors who have been able to serve as living donors usually gave their kidneys to their children (37 percent), partners (35 percent), siblings (14 percent) and other relatives or friends. What's more is that studies suggest healthy individuals over 70 years old had lower death rates than healthy elderly individuals who were not organ donors in their same age group. Moreover, the organs from Elderly Donors did not last as long as those from Younger Living Donors, but they lasted just as long as organs from Younger Deceased Donors.
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Wait times on the list are increasing and cadaver kidneys remain scarce. The average wait time for patients 50 to 64 years old is more than 4 years while patients 65 and older must wait nearly as long as some living in dense regions of the U.S. who can wait six to eight years before they get a kidney transplant. Broadening the pool of potential living kidney donors, to include seniors over 70, will result in freeing up space on the waiting list by providing more options to those patients who are waiting for a kidney. While it is still very important for Kidney Transplant Centers to continue to scrutinize all kidney donor candidates, these findings can serve as a compelling reason to expand the use of older living-donors to help solve the nation's kidney shortage problem.
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Studies indicate that 10 to 20 percent of seniors who need a transplant would find many living donors among people of their own age if they looked. Reports suggest that this surgery is safe and complications are relatively uncommon when donors are carefully selected. So if you have not asked an older adult in your life to donate, you may want to consider having this discussion with them.
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"Never Too Old to Donate a Kidney?" Newswise.
"Kidney Donation Over Age 70? Desperate Patients Saying, 'Yes, Please' | Bioethics International." Ethics Illustrated.