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History of living donation

The first successful living donor transplant was performed between 23-year-old identical twins in 1954. Doctor Joseph E. Murray and associates at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now Brigham and Women’s Hospital) in Boston, Massachusetts, transplanted a healthy kidney from Ronald Herrick into his twin brother, Richard, who had chronic kidney failure.

Richard and Ronald Herrick, first successful living donor transplant in 1954

Ronald Herrick donated his kidney in 1954 to his twin brother Richard.

Richard went on to live an active, normal life, dying eight years later from causes unrelated to the transplant. Ronald died in 2010, just four days after the 56th anniversary of his pioneering kidney operation.

Most early living donors were biological relatives of the recipient. This was done both to reduce the risk of organ rejection and to recognize the special bond between donor and recipient. Later, as transplant treatment improved and as transplant teams better understood the motivation of potential donors, transplants between non-relatives became more common.  Some people now choose to be living donors without ever meeting their recipient.

Living donors have made possible more than 190,000 transplants in the United States. Almost all transplant centers in the United States perform living kidney donor transplants. Use the Member Directory to find a transplant program in your area.

Reference and Publication Information

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is committed to providing accurate and reliable information for transplant patients. The content on this page was originally created on February 25, 2005 by UNOS and last modified on January 11, 2024.

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