Thursday is International Women’s Day, and it’s also World Kidney Day! What better way to celebrate the two holidays than to take a look at the rate of kidney donation in the United States and learn about how women rule the kidney donation world.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology on Thursday, Dr. Jagbir Gill and his University of British Columbia colleagues analyzed data from the U.S. Census and the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients to see how kidney donation rates changed over a ten year period, from 2005 to 2015.

“Receiving a kidney from a living donor is the preferred treatment for patients with kidney failure, but the number of living donor transplantations in the United States has been decreasing since 2005,” a press release accompanying the study says.

It’s true — the rate of living kidney donation per million people was 30.1 in 2005, but dropped to 19.3 in 2015. That’s a pretty startling drop, and it’s not like there aren’t people who could use a kidney. As of March 2018, there were more than 95,000 people on the kidney transplant waitlist.

So why the decline? According to the study, the rate of living kidney donation in 2015 was markedly different across demographics, especially between women and men. In fact, women donated kidneys at a 44 percent higher incidence than men.

There wasn’t always such a stark disparity. Over the ten year period, women’s donations remained stable, but men’s declined, particularly in lower income groups. The researchers suggest that this may be because the financial cost of donating a kidney bars them from donation.

“This research strongly supports initiatives to reduce or reimburse all costs associated with donation so that people who come forward to donate don’t have to worry about incurring any out of pocket expenses,” Dr. Gill said.

Seems like a good policy suggestion. If you’re giving up one of your organs, then you shouldn’t be expected to foot the bill. Unfortunately, that’s not the way organ donation currently works. While medical expenses are generally covered by the recipient’s insurance, the donor is expected to pay for travel expenses and follow-up treatment that may be needed as a result of the operation, not to mention lost wages from time missed at work while in the hospital.

However, financial cost effects both the sexes, and despite these challenges, women have been coming through. Perhaps it’s time to celebrate this achievement with a new holiday, greater than the sum of its parts.

Happy International Women’s Kidney Donation Day!

Photos via James Grebey

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