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What is Standard Voucher Kidney Donation?

Mimi Mahon

If you are interested in donating a kidney to someone you know, there is a chance you might not be the best match. You may be medically incompatible with your intended recipient, or you may be compatible but not the best match. To address this potential issue, the National Kidney Registry created the Standard Voucher Program.

When you donate through the Standard Voucher Program, you can ensure your intended recipient gets the best possible kidney—even if that kidney does not come from you.

The Standard Voucher Program lets you donate according to your schedule while providing a voucher for someone in imminent need of a transplant. When the intended recipient is ready for their transplant, they can redeem the voucher to receive a transplant from a well-matched living kidney donor.

The Standard Voucher Program is offered exclusively by NKR member centers that participate in the Voucher Program. The option to donate through the Standard Voucher Program is also available to anyone who qualifies for Donor Shield, a comprehensive suite of support and protections for living kidney donors.

There are currently 92 transplant centers nationwide that participate in the Voucher Program. To see all participating centers, visit https://www.kidneytransplantcenters.org. To see a map of Donor Shield centers that participate in the Voucher Program, visit https://www.donor-shield.org.

How Standard Voucher Kidney Donation Works

Here is the process you can expect to go through when you donate a kidney through the NKR’s Standard Voucher Program.

You choose an NKR-affiliated transplant center that participates in the Voucher Program.

You designate your intended recipient as the person who will receive your voucher. You can also name five family members as backup voucher holders should the primary voucher holder not end up redeeming the voucher.

You schedule your donor surgery for a time that is convenient for you and proceed with your kidney donation at the center you chose.

Your kidney is transported to the recipient the NKR has deemed the best match and transplanted.

When your intended recipient is ready for transplant surgery, they inform their transplant team that they are ready to redeem the voucher they received from your donation.

Your intended recipient is activated in the NKR system and prioritized for a living donor kidney.

The system immediately starts looking for a matching donor from among its pool of prospective donors who have registered with the system but have not yet donated. The NKR has the largest pool of donors in the United States across more than 100 transplant centers across the country.

Why Donate Through the Standard Voucher Program

The NKR created the Standard Voucher program to enable the best possible donor-recipient matches and to allow kidney donors to donate to the recipient of their choice, even if they are not medically compatible.

When you donate through the Standard Voucher program, the NKR performs two searches: it looks for a kidney patient who is the best match for your donated kidney, and it looks for a different living kidney donor who is the best match for your intended recipient.

The NKR uses the latest DNA technology to find the best possible donor-recipient matches. The better the match, the better the chance the transplant will be successful and the longer the transplanted kidney is likely to last. In addition, with a better match, the transplant recipient may be able to take lower dosages of immunosuppressive medications.

In addition to ensuring the best kidney match for your intended recipient, the Standard Voucher program offers additional protections for donors. All standard voucher donors are prioritized for a living donor transplant in the extremely rare case they ever need a kidney transplant in the future.

Standard voucher donors are also eligible for the support and protections offered by Donor Shield, including up to $18,000 in reimbursement for donation-related lost wages and travel and dependent care costs.

To register as a standard voucher donor, visit https://www.kidneyregistry.org.

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