altruistic donor
n. A person who donates an organ to a stranger.
Other Forms
Zell Kravinsky recently gave away $15 million, but that's only money. Today, the Jenkintown real-estate investor is giving away something money can't buy: one of his kidneys.

And he's giving it to a stranger.

Altruistic organ donations like Kravinsky's are exceedingly rare. The United Network for Organ Sharing says that of the 56,221 kidneys donated by living people in the past 15 years, just 133 were altruistic donors who offered a kidney to a stranger.

Kravinsky, 48, said he's giving away a kidney because "It's the moral thing to do."
—Rose DeWolf, “This donation could net him a divorce,” Philadelphia Daily News, July 22, 2003
Recognizing the growing opportunities for living donations and the number of altruistic donors, the St. Louis office of Mid-America Transplant Services launched Second Chance St. Louis.
—Kathleen O'Dell, “Live-organ donors outnumber deceased,” Springfield News-Leader (Springfield, MO), June 27, 2003
1994 (earliest)
The number of people on the national waiting list for organ transplants exceeds 35,000, up 14 percent over the last year.

Supplying their needs can be "quite lucrative," said Dr. Roger W. Evans, the director of health services evaluation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and the author of several studies on transplantation costs. "It's like a car at a chop shop. Somebody's making a handsome fee off of processing the parts."

The somebody includes everyone except the donor and the donor's family. Transplant agencies have long preferred it that way, saying that poor people might put themselves at risk by becoming sources of spare body parts for the rich, and that paying for organs would alienate the altruistic donors on whom transplant agencies now depend.
—Peter S. Young, “Moving to Compensate Families in Human-Organ Market,” The New York Times, July 08, 1994
The first example citation tells us that altruistic donations of organs are still quite rare. In part that's because few people would even consider giving up an organ for a complete stranger. But it's also because few people who do offer their organs to others are actually accepted. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which tracks organ donations in the U.S., only about 5 percent of altruistic donor applicants are accepted, mostly due to the rigorous physical and mental testing would-be donors must pass.

However, it seems likely that more altruistic donors will apply, if only because the need for organs in so acute. In the U.S. alone, more than 80,000 people are waiting for an organ (55,000 of those require a kidney), and the UNOS estimates that number could rise as high as 100,000 by the end of the decade.

Note, too, that although the phrase altruistic donor in the sense defined above dates to 1994 (see the earliest citation), there's an earlier sense that refers to people who donate blood to be used by strangers (which applies to most people who give blood), which goes back to 1985.
Filed Under