If you would say yes to a life-saving transplant, have you said yes to being an organ donor?
Let me reword that slightly, if you would say yes to a life-saving transplant, why would you say no to being an organ donor?
It’s a question that puts many people in an uncomfortable position. Am I willing to take, but not give?
For me – if my life depended on receiving a life-saving transplant, I wouldn’t hesitate to say no.
For me – deciding to become an organ donor makes me stop and think… why is it so easy to take but not so hard to give?
Organ Donation in Australia
Organ donation is a life-saving medical process. It is a process whereby organs and tissues are removed from a deceased or living person (donor) and are transplanted into someone else’s body, who in many cases is extremely ill or dying (recipient).
Whole organs and sections of tissue which can be transplanted include the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, kidney, heart valves, corneas, tendons and skin. However, only the kidneys and parts of the liver and pancreas are able to be removed from a living donor for transplantation… obviously you can’t remove a heart from a living persons and give it to someone else.
Due to our highly knowledgeable medical professions and advanced facilities, Australia is currently the world leader in successful transplant outcomes. In 2017 alone, 1,469 organ transplant procedures were conducted.
Despite these encouraging figures, there is a worrying gap between the supply of and demand for organs and tissues. As of 2016, only ⅓ of Australians were registered organ donors. Whilst, at any one time, there are still between 1,400 and 1,600 people on the Australian organ donation waiting list. That waiting time can be anywhere between 6 months to 4 years!
So why is there such a shortage of donors? What is influencing one’s decision to be an organ donor?
Quite often, if you don’t know how to do something, you won’t do it. Or if you don’t know about something, you won’t talk about it. A person’s knowledge about organ donation plays a significant role in effecting whether or not they become an organ donor. Studies found that a person’s knowledge of organ donation was generally as a result of a family experience. In contrast, others who did not have a direct link to organ donation were less knowledgeable and expressed signs of apprehension.
Others often believed to understand organ donation from hearing myths that circulate social discussions.
Over time, ‘urban myths had been translated into what people perceived to be correct information and had subsequently resulted in fears about donation.
It’s a no brainer that religious beliefs are another factor that influence one’s decisions. Studies have shown that those who maintain strong religious views are less likely to become organ donors than those who do not. For some religions, like Christianity, organ donation coincide with the altruistic belief system provided by the religion. Whereas, other religions believe the body should maintain wholeness after death.
For some people, body integrity has a significant effect on whether they become an organ donor. Body integrity is seen to be seriously violated by the removal and loss of irreplaceable and unique body organs and tissues. Removing one’s organs and/or tissues raises different psychological and moral issues with respect to ideas about how we should treat our bodies or the bodies of our loved ones.
Many people also felt uneasy knowing their body would be ‘cut up’ and their organs and tissues would be given to someone else. One participant from the study liked to described the posthumous non-donor as someone that just can’t live with the fact that knowing that their organs may possibly be living in someone else’s body.
Organ donation won’t be everyones cup of tea. But it is an important topic I encourage everyone to discuss.
What happens to your organs and tissues when you pass is YOUR decision. Not your parent’s, not you partner’s, not your friend’s – YOURS. Therefore, telling people what YOU want to happen with your organs and tissues is important to ensure your decision is respectfully honoured and followed.
Also, in the unfortunate event of your death, your loved ones will be asked to confirm your donation decision before any donation or transplantation procedures can occur. I’m sure you don’t want your loved ones having to make a hard decision on your behalf while they are grieving.
Heavy, I know, but it’s true.
Discussing organ donation could potentially result in more registered donors, and one day resulting in the supply of organs and tissues meeting the demand.
How to register
More specifically, if you would like to choose which organs and tissues you would like to donate, or if you wish to register not to be an organ donor, head to Australian Government Medicare.