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Why do women donate more kidneys than men?

Dr. Jagbir Gill has set out to get to the bottom of this disparity.

Most living kidney donors are women, accounting for three out of every five donors in BC.

This has been the case since the early days of living donor kidney transplantation and it’s a phenomenon Dr. Jagbir Gill, a transplant nephrologist at St. Paul’s Hospital and a researcher with the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences (CHÉOS), sees every day. He has also studied this disparity.

St. Paul’s is one of two adult kidney transplant centres in BC. It is also the only hospital in BC that performs adult heart transplants. Doctors at St. Paul’s Hospital recently performed the 500th heart transplant in the province.

Dr. Gill’s recent research, based on American data, found financial barriers play a role when it comes to gender differences and kidney donations. He sees the same issue in Canada. He said the onus may fall on women because it’s more financially feasible for women to donate if men are more often the primary breadwinners. There are other theories about why women step forward more often, Dr. Gill said, and while a lot of these theories haven’t been proven, they are “common sense” reasons, such as the idea that women are more altruistic than men.

According to a recent report, in Canada, men waiting for a new kidney are more likely to receive a transplant than women, but women are more likely to give someone else a kidney. This disparity exists despite the fact that men and women suffer from kidney disease at roughly the same rate. Nephrologist and CHÉOS researcher Dr. Adeera Levin spoke to the media about this gender gap on World Kidney Day and International Women’s Day.

Explaining the imbalance isn’t simple, but many doctors say men with kidney disease are often sicker and prioritized, while women have more complex biology that makes it harder to find suitable organ matches.