Can You Be an Organ Donor If You Have Hepatitis?

People with Hepatitis Donate Hundreds of Organs Every Year

Organ donor card. Lumina Imaging/ GettyImages

Can you be an organ donor if you have hepatitis? Yes, you can!

Some people think that having hepatitis means that they can't be an organ donor. This is a myth. People can still be an organ donor and have acute or even chronic hepatitis. In fact, people who were positive for hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C virus donated more than 1,200 organs for transplant in 2011.

According to the website of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a division of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, having a medical condition at your time of death doesn't necessarily rule out being an organ donor: "Doctors will evaluate the condition of your organs when the time arises.

The transplant team's decision will be based on a combination of factors such as your specific illness and your physical condition to determine which organs and tissues can be donated."

There are, however, diseases that will prevent organ donation. Examples include being HIV positive, having active cancer or having a systemic (body-wide) infection.

How Your Kidneys Can Help

People with hepatitis C can only donate organs to others who also have the condition, but whose organs are in worse shape. 

A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins published in 2010 found that more than half of donor kidneys from people with hepatitis C are needlessly thrown away in the U.S. instead of being supplied to hepatitis C-positive patients with kidney failure.

These organs can help get hepatitis C patients with kidney failure off dialysis sooner than waiting for an infection-free kidney, which can a year longer on average.

One year on dialysis increases the risk of death by 10 to 15 percent, the researchers said. 

How to Become an Organ Donor 

Organ donation is a tremendous act of kindness, and there is a great need for organ donors of all ages. In fact, there is no age limit. Even if your liver isn't in good enough shape for donation, perhaps other organs and tissues could be used by someone else.

Here are a few stats about organ donation in the U.S., from HRSA:

  • More than 120,000 people are waiting for an organ.
  • An average of 79 people receive organ transplants each day. However, an average of 22 people die each day waiting for transplants that can't take place because of the shortage of donated organs.
  • In 2014, 29,532 people of all ages received organ transplants.

Here are examples of organs, in addition to the liver, that can be used: heart, intestines, kidneys, lungs and pancreas. (Forgotten where these organs are located and what their functions are? Take a quick tour of the digestive system.) In addition, certain tissues can also be used: bones, corneas, sclerae, tendons and certain veins.

To become an organ donor, you can sign up when you renew your driver's license. Or, you can register online with your state's donor registry. It's a good idea to tell your loved ones that you have chosen to be an organ donor. 


U.S. Government Information on Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Donor Kidneys From Hepatitis C Patients Needlessly Denied To Patients With That Infection. Johns Hopkins Medicine. March 31, 2010.

Hepatitis C virus infection in kidney donors. UpToDate. July 4, 2015.

Donate Life America. Retrieved August 18, 2008. Understanding Donation.

United Network for Organ Sharing. Retrieved August 18, 2008. Media Information.

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