Want to Donate an Organ? You Might Be Too Fat

Obesity levels in the U.S. may be having an impact on organ donations around the country.

People who are overeight and obese might be turned down for organ donation, as some transplantation centers have a donor weight ceiling. (Photo: Paul Damien/Getty Images)

Aug 7, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

Almost 100,000 people in the U.S. are currently waiting for a new kidney, but something may be holding up donations: obesity levels.

The New York Times reports that the nation’s obesity epidemic is impacting living organ donations, since people who are overweight or obese (and two-thirds of the country falls in that category) could have too many risk factors to be considered eligible.

The issue may not be surgical complications (a study found that obese and normal weight people had the same rate of major complications), but the health of the donor post-surgery. The Times said that obesity can increase the danger of developing kidney disease, and some doctors aren’t willing to put potential donors at risk.

MORE: Doctors Should Screen Adults for Obesity, Panel Says

While no universal weight cap exists, according to the Times about half of transplant centers won’t allow donors with a body mass index over 35 (a BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese).

“Part of the shortage of living donor kidneys is because of the stringent criteria we’re placing on our living donor candidates who come in for evaluation,” Dr. Mala Sachdeva of the North Shore University Hospital Transplant Center on Long Island was quoted as saying. There, the paper said, 23 out of 104 potential donors were considered ineligible since they surpassed the center’s BMI ceiling of 35. Three subsequently lost weight and were able to donate.

In the story’s comments, one man said he was told to lose 15 to 20 pounds before he could donate a kidney to his sister: “I did manage to meet the goal over the course of about four months,” he wrote, “and we carried out the transplant successfully just over a year ago. In my case, it ended up being a tremendous positive for me, as it forced me to make lifestyle changes I needed to make for my own health anyway.”

Have you ever considered becoming an organ donor? Let us know in the comments.

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