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Organ Donation and Children

Organ donation by children is a difficult subject. The loss of a child or infant is tragic. The option to donate organs, eyes, and tissues is especially hard on parents, as they make the decisions.  These are the facts about teen, child, and infant donation.


Right now, over 1,900 children under the age of 18 are on the national transplant waiting list.


Over 1,700 children received transplants in 2020.


In 2020:

  • There were over 860 child organ donors. Although they ranged from newborns to age 17, most were age 11 to 17.
  • Over 121 child organ donors were babies under the age of 12 months.


The size of the body and the organ matter when matching donors to receiving patients. That's why very small children most often receive donations from other young people.  Older children and adults can often match as well. Sometimes, children can receive donations of partial organs such as a piece of a liver or lung. 

Read Caitlin's story


The organs that children tend to need most varies by age:

  • Most children under age one are waiting for a liver or a heart, followed by liver.
  • Most children age 1 to 10 are waiting for a kidney or liver, followed by a heart.
  • Most children age 11 to 17 are waiting for a kidney, followed by a heart.


Young organ donors under 18 years old:

  • must always have parent or legal guardian permission to donate
  • must have parents make the donation decision if they die before age 18 in most states

can sign up as organ donors when they get their learner's permit or driver's license in many states.

For more statistics about donations, transplants, waiting list, and waiting times, view current Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) data reports.

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