Blacks Less Willing to Donate Kidneys to Strangers

A new study shows that when it comes to this critical area of organ donation, African-Americans like to keep it in the family.

Posted: 10/20/2011 02:16 PM EDT
Blacks Less Willing to Donate Kidneys to Strangers

When it comes to kidney donation, African-Americans donate almost exclusively to family members, as compared to Caucasians, according to a study published by medical researchers at Wake Forest University.

"African-Americans are overrepresented in the dialysis population and they are underrepresented among those who receive living donor kidney transplants, the best option for long-term treatment of kidney disease," said Amber Reeves-Daniel, lead author of the study and medical director of the Living Kidney Donor Program at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, N.C. “The more we can understand what contributes to people's willingness to donate one of their kidneys, the better job we can do of educating potential living donors about the need and allay fears about the risks.”

The study, published online in the September/October issue of the journal, Clinical Transplantation, sought to characterize differences in donor and recipient relationships between African-American and Caucasian living kidney donors.

After comparing medical records of all former successful kidney donors at Wake Forest Baptist between Jan. 1991 and Dec. 2009, researchers noticed that African-American donors were more likely to be related to the transplant recipient than Caucasians. Data also showed that African-American donors were more likely to donate to their parents compared to Caucasians, but were slightly less likely to participate in parent-to-child donation. Additionally, the study showed that African-American kidney donors are usually much younger than their white counterparts, primarily because Black dialysis patients are typically younger than white dialysis patients.


While the Black community's propensity to donate to family members may sound heartwarming, the practice hasn't done much to help the many African-Americans still in search of a donor. A separate study showed that from 2006 to 2009, Black patients who needed kidney transplants received kidneys 19 percent less than whites. Reeves-Daniel said there is hope that the Wake Forest data will help re-shape recruitment strategies targeting both races and allow the medical community to identify growth areas for kidney donation in the African-American community.