There are Shortages
The most important thing to know is that each and every donated kidney is precious. The CDC reports that kidneys are one of the most commonly needed organs, but the demand for new kidneys greatly outstrips the supply.
That means that every donated kidney can save a life and that none of them will go to waste. A live donor can save one life, while a deceased donor can often save more than that! There are a few other opportunities in life for people to make such a big and concrete difference with a relatively simple act.
Testing is Thorough
Donated organs go through stringent testing procedures to see if they carry any diseases. That is necessary because they come from bodies, and that means they can carry any of the bacteria that were in the body when they came out.
That does not mean that people who do carry dangerous diseases are barred from donating kidneys. While there are a few exceptions, most hospitals can take infected organs. They simply match them with people who already have the disease. They can do that because getting exposed to it a second time makes no difference, and the recipient can still benefit from the organ. It is simply the most efficient way to hand the organs out to those who need them.
Live Donation is Common
Healthy humans are born with two kidneys, but they only need one of them to survive. Most people never need to use their spare, so it is possible to donate it to save a life while you are still alive. That is actually a fairly common practice, especially for people who have a friend or relative who is suffering from kidney disease. That close emotional connection is often the thing that inspires people to make the donation in the first place.
On the other hand, there are people who give kidneys to complete strangers, often without ever meeting them in the first place. That is a massive act of charity, and it really does happen more often than people expect.
Donating Creates Domino Effects
Most people who donate kidneys want to give them to their loved ones, but that isn’t always an option because the donor and recipient need to be compatible with each other. The medical community has dealt with that problem by starting donor chains. The system starts with one person who donates to another and has an associated donor, who gives to a third person, and so on down the line. Each person gives to a compatible recipient, but their loved one can still get a kidney from somebody else. Some of these chains are short, but there have been a few that have been long and helped a lot of people to survive.
The people who do give anonymously to a stranger are particularly useful for this method because they can fit anywhere in the chain to fill a gap. They might be able to start a chain on their own, or they can serve as a donor for somebody who could not provide one on their own.
Donating is Easy
The donation process takes time, but it isn’t very difficult. A live donor will go through some testing to make sure they are healthy, and eventually have a short surgery to take the kidney out and give it to the recipient. A deceased donor has an even easier job since all they have to do is sign up to be a donor and then go through the rest of their lives. The donation provides gigantic benefits compared to the time and effort that it takes, so everyone should at least consider signing up.