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Alcohol support

Should I donate part of my liver to my sister?

260 replies

Sienna7657 · 04/05/2021 10:58

Hi all,
My sister has been a heavy drinker for many years. It's got to the point that she has malnutrition and her liver has failed. She cannot walk anymore because she is that weak.
She is in need of a liver transplant. I know that in the uk, it can take many months before a donor is available. I'm the same blood group as her and I have a healthy bmi.
I am considering to give her part of my liver instead. However there are a few things I need to consider.
I am a single mum to 2 young children under 2. Recovery after a transplant can take upto 3 months and I dont think I can find anyone else to help me take care of the kids.
I would have to take unpaid leave off work. This would mean that my family will struggle financially and I really dont want to be asking my family for money.
What would you do if you were me?

OP posts:
EnglishRain · 04/05/2021 14:59

No I wouldn't.

Regardless of whether your sister would look after herself afterwards or not, is that really worth the risk of your children losing their only parent? I don't think it is.

RaveOnThisCrazyFeeling · 04/05/2021 14:59

I want to amend my comment from "I would risk my life to save my adult sibling [but not in these circumstances because of the risk to the children's stability]" to "I would like to think that I would risk my life to save my adult sibling..."

Because I am thankfully not currently in the position of having to know what I would do. Other posters are right; it's easy to say what we'd do when we don't have to do anything more than say it.

You are in an impossible situation and none of it is of your making (addiction is a disease, and it's not your sister's 'fault' either. It's just the cruel reality of life, sometimes). You will not make the wrong decision because there is no wrong one. If you move ahead with donating out of love for your sister, or if you decide against it out of love for your children, or even if you realise you can't risk it out of love for your own life and health, you haven't brought the situation about and you aren't responsible for the outcome. Don't forget that, whatever happens. Flowers

Toddlerteaplease · 04/05/2021 15:01

If she's genuinely stopped drinking, then o don't think I could live with myself if I did'nt try and help. It may be that you aren't a match anyway. But I'd have to try.

Todaytomorrowyesterday · 04/05/2021 15:01

You need to speak to her doctors to understand the full prognosis as others have said to find out whether it will help her & if it’s an option.

You would & rightfully should if you decide to go ahead with it ask for help & support from your family.

As a mother could you imagine one of your children not helping the other out (within reason - is this one of those reasons?)

ErickBroch · 04/05/2021 15:02

I would absolutely do this. She hasn't drunk for 2 years and your family can help you whilst you recover.

user068727 · 04/05/2021 15:06

OP, like PPs have said,
until you are asked this is not an issue.

You have not been asked yet and either this is for clinical reasons, or possibly because your sister ruled out asking you (and if the latter, that's her private and personal choice).

It is only really something to think over
if you are asked and
are a match and
* the transplant team say it could work,
and at that point only you and the team will know.
I would be astounded if confidential counselling wasn't available to you at this stage.

If you decide not to go ahead the team will just say you are not suitable - they will not "grass you up".

TheYearOfSmallThings · 04/05/2021 15:07

I wouldn't do it. There is a risk to you from the surgery, a long recovery with nobody to look after you and your DC, the possibility that surgery would be unsuccessful, the ever present possibility that your sister may resume drinking...

It would have to be a no.

Floralnomad · 04/05/2021 15:13

I think if she has genuinely stopped drinking I would at least have to ask if it was a viable proposal . My first question would be has she really stopped drinking and if so why has she still deteriorated to this state and if the reason she stopped drinking was because she had reached this state will she drink again if she did feel better . However much I loved someone I wouldn’t donate an organ or part of an organ just for them to abuse it whilst I risked myself / my families future .

Bells3032 · 04/05/2021 15:14

Honestly it's hard and i don't think anyone would blame you for saying no. It's a risky surgery with a long recovery. But if your parents/sibling have the funds to help cover i don't think not wanting to ask for money should be a factor. You're giving her a kidney - she can help fund the expenses associated with it.

Honestly, if it was my sister I'd still do it but i am incredibly close to my sister and i don't know what you're relationship is like and whether you feel she won't waste the opportunity.

At the end of the day no one can tell you what decision to make and no one should be angry at you either way

user1471519931 · 04/05/2021 15:18

No I wouldn't. 💐

QueeniesCroft · 04/05/2021 15:20

It's easy to be generous with other people's organs, isn't it, or to sneer at the very idea of not doing this? The reality is that there is no simple answer here. Family dynamics can be so complicated and there is almost always a complex set of relationships and roles within each family.

OP, it does sound as if your sister may not be well enough for a living donation, or indeed for any transplant. But I think you need to hear that from her doctors. There is truly no shame or blame in not taking the risk (if it is 1 in 200 that you would die, then I wouldn't take the risk at all).

As an aside, are your parents reliable? If they agreed to proved help, would they stick to that? My parents are unusually bad in this respect, but I absolutely know that they would agree to it in order to save my sister (the golden child!) and then go back on their word and mutter darkly about how I was responsible for my own children once it was too late for me to back out.

There are people for whom I would do this, but I am not a single parent and my wider family (well, my in-laws) would be very helpful and supportive. In your situation I would have to see it as impossible.

I have enormous sympathy for everyone in this situation, and I understand all too well the all-consuming need to "fix" the problem, but go carefully and be gentle to yourself.

diamondpony80 · 04/05/2021 15:25

I love my sister, but if it was a straight-up choice between her (and a self-inflicted condition) and my two children then my children would have to come first. And it is a choice, because no surgery is without risk and there's no guarantee she won't start drinking again. As a single parent to two babies you really can't afford to be taking any risks at all, or take months off for recovery.

menotastic · 04/05/2021 15:26

How far have you got with the process? If I were you, I'd be trying to arrange a meeting with the organ donation people and talking through the risks - they'll tell you the worst case scenarios, and if you ask, they should be able to give you some kind of percentage chance of those kind of scenarios happening. I'd also be finding out what the average recovery time to being reasonably mobile and able to look after kids after the op for someone of your age and health. I'd also be talking to parents and sister about how they can help you make this work. Could they hire you an au pair for the recovery period? If your contribution is a lot of pain and inconvenience and some risk, you are absolutely reasonable to expect others in your family, who can't offer to donate liver because they're elderly, to contribute in other ways e.g. financial sacrifices.

I'm sorry you're in such a difficult position. I'd try really hard to get to a point where you're comfortable saying yes, but also be prepared to explore the options further and decide ultimately that it has to be a no. Also, I think I'm right in saying you'd be able to pull out of any agreement right up to the very last minute, and the medical people would find a 'medical' reason for it not going ahead so you wouldn't have to justify your change of heart to your family.

PurpleBeaver · 04/05/2021 15:27

This must be so difficult. My late gran used to say family is group of people you are connected to by blood that you can't sell off or can't throw away, you just have to deal with them some way another because they won't go away. This was when she was betrayed by her dear brother during some inheritance issue. I have a sister too and would feel angry that she has put herself in this position which will impact my life and family life if I help her but what would you do? Watch her die of liver failure or ignore it and hope a transplant comes and if it doesn't, watch her health deteriorate and maybe watch her die? I think you know the answer unfortunately which will effect you unfortunately.

PurpleBeaver · 04/05/2021 15:29

Also no one has any right to blame you if you choose not to help Thanks

Franklyfrost · 04/05/2021 15:30

If I was in your position I wouldn’t donate. It might help you to remember that even if you were a match and the surgery was successful and the transplant was successful your sister would still be very unwell and have a shortened life expectancy.

menotastic · 04/05/2021 15:35

To clarify on the 'It's not an issue until you've been asked', my own experience is that the person in need of a donation shouldn't be asking. The donor has to come forward and suggest it themselves and give very firm assurances to the authorities that that there's no pressure from anyone coercing or begging them.

It's also my experience that the doctors are 100% clear that they won't do the op if the odds of success for the transplant are not extremely high. I was going to give a kidney and the op was cancelled the day before because of a slightly reduced survival prognosis for the recipient due to a new symptom. Their duty of care is always first and foremost to the healthy person in the process.

stalachtiteorstalagmite · 04/05/2021 15:44

I would say no without a single second of remorse. Your first duty is to your children and 3 months is a hell of a long time to be out of action for them, not to mention the potential health risks to you. I would say no regardless of why your sister needs it - alcoholism is incredibly tough so no judgement, but I do think you should refuse for your kids' sake.

Summerfun54321 · 04/05/2021 15:50

No because you don’t know what is around the corner for your own health. You might be fit and active and healthy now but who knows what the impact of your liver donation would be on any future medical issues you may have. You’re a carer for your children and their needs come first over that of a sibling.

Mummyoflittledragon · 04/05/2021 16:25

No. And why?

  1. 1 in 200 risk of dying.
    This should be the only stat you look at. Your liver and life should be for your very young children.

  2. Recovery time.
    The published figures for how long it takes to recover from surgery are wildly optimistic. I know. I’ve had a lot of surgery.
    You are looking at a year to return to normal. This surgery is far harder on the donor than recipient.

  3. Prognosis.
    Your dsis is so ill her recovery is far from guaranteed.

  4. Financial.
    This would be last on my list. I imagine your family would sort this if you discussed it with them. Up front cash from your parents.
TurquoiseDragon · 04/05/2021 16:42


The risks for you are fairly low and it'd make a big difference to her. I would want to feel I'd done all I can to stop her dying. If she died and I hadn't done it I'd feel really bad.

You don't get paid for doing, it but I think you get your expenses paid, which might include any loss of wages. You could look into what's covered by the expenses- it might even include help you need with the kids while you're ill.

Do your research before spouting rubbish. The risks to living donors are actually quite high. The death statistic quoted earlier is as high as 1 in 200 for the donor
dancealittleclosertome · 04/05/2021 16:52

This is very hard. If she dies, and you had not tried to help, you will feel absolutely awful, so for your sake, more than hers, why not at least investigate? The best outcome would be, to be honest, that the doctors refuse you - either because you are not a match, or because they will not take the donation from a parent of such young children.

Iseeyoulookingatme · 04/05/2021 16:56

I would say no, you have children and if anything happened to you your children could be left without a mum and your sister without a sister. Although I can understand your dilemma your sister has put herself in this position.

BigSandyBalls2015 · 04/05/2021 17:04

Surely if she genuinely stopped drinking two years ago then she wouldn’t be as poorly as this now? Do you def know she has stopped OP?

Trixie78 · 04/05/2021 17:06


My parents are around. My parents and my sister do have enough funds to support my family whilst I take time off work. But I would feel extremely uncomfortable asking them for money so that I can take care of my kids- when the kids are my responsibility.
My parents are also quite old so they are not able to take care of the kids alone- they always need me to take care of the kids when I visit anyway. So I know whilst I'm recovering- I have noone to help me take care of the kids.

If you do it you must accept the financial help from your parents without feeling guilty. They're not supporting your children they're paying for your sisters choices. I'd be very tempted to say no, your kids need you but I also don't see how you could not do it. I'm sorry OP XX
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