Why I’m donating a kidney, and why you should consider donating as well
(edit July 1st: I’m home recovering and doing well. Also doing an AMA on reddit on July 1st— check it out here)
On June 25th, I will be donating a kidney. I’m not donating to a person who I know, but donating to a stranger on the kidney waiting list. I’ve been thinking about this for about a year, and I eventually became convinced it was the right thing to do. I’m writing this post to explain why I’m doing this, and why I think you should consider doing it as well.
I’m not the first to write this sort of article, and I probably won’t do it as well as those who’ve done it previously — see Dylan Matthews in Vox or Tom Ash in the Effective Altruist forum. But I do want to add to the chorus of voices encouraging kidney donation, because sometimes a little extra push is helpful in making a difference.
The basic argument is pretty simple, and can be broken down into three main points:
- Kidney disease is a serious problem
- Living donations produce extremely large benefits to recipients
- Living donations are very safe for the donor
Kidney disease is a serious problem
Kidney disease is a silent epidemic in the US. It kills three times as many people as all homicides put together. Kidney disease kills more people each year in the United States than car crashes, breast cancer, or suicide. More than 100,000 people are currently on the kidney donation waitlist, and there are tens of thousands more who could benefit from a donated kidney but haven’t even joined the waitlist (as it’s so long). Despite this, kidney disease gets very little media coverage compared to the above issues.
On top of the raw death counts, life with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) is often short and awful. Dialysis is miserable and often steals your ability to lead a normal life. It’s a procedure that saps all your energy and takes 3–4 hours, and must be done 3–4 times per week, every week, or else you die (and it only replicates about 10% of normal kidney function). It’s hard to maintain a job, personal relationships, hobbies or a normal life while on dialysis. Survival rates on dialysis are grim. 20–25% of patients on…