If you would say yes to a life-saving transplant, have you said yes to being an organ donor?
Wouldn’t it feel amazing to know that one day you could potentially save someone’s life?
Be aware that you may find the following content confronting.
It was about 2 years ago, I was driving across the Story Bridge and saw one of the many banners that are placed across the upper rails for advertising purposes.
It read, “Are you an organ donor?”
I immediately picked up my phone (no I was not driving) and googled organ donation Australia.
That night at the dinner table, I started a discussion with my family by saying, “I saw an Australia Organ Donation banner on the Story Bridge today…”, and the rest is history.
I now want to ask you the question – have you discussed the idea of organ donation with your family yet?
If not, today’s the day.
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 person and give it to someone else.
Currently in Australia, we have an opt-in system, whereby it is up to individuals to physically register themselves. Specifically, through Medicare Australia, you are able to register your decision to be or not to be a donor. Each State and territory has their own legislation relating to organ donation and transplantation. Queensland’s is the Transplantation and Anatomy Act 1979.
There have been many debates as to whether Australia should join other countries in changing to an opt-out system. This means that instead of having to register yourself, you are automatically added to the registry and it is up to you to remove yourself if you do not wish to be an organ donor or your consent to donate your organs after your death is presumed unless you have explicitly stated otherwise. However, it seems unlikely Australia will change their system as many, including an Australian Organ and Tissue Authority (AOTA) spokeswoman, believe ‘organ donation [should be] recognised as an altruistic decision, not a decision forced upon the community’.
The spokeswoman continued to explain “… focusing on the opt-out versus opt-in system can create a missed opportunity in understanding the barriers related to organ and tissue donation and their impact on the decision making process”.
In fact, the opt-out system doesn’t always translate to increased organ donor rates. For example, the opt-out system was introduced in Sweden in 1996, but the country remains one of the lowest-ranked countries for organ donation in Europe. It is believed that people immediately unregister because they are unsure of their decision and then forget to re-register later in life.
However, I’ll leave the opt-in v opt-out debate for another time.
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 are still between 1,400 and 1,600 people on the Australian organ donation waiting list at any one time. That ‘waiting time’ can be anywhere between 6 months to 4 years! You, me, our parents and friends can all help decrease that figure, because one individual has the ability to save the lives of up to 10 people.
It’s obvious that the greatest advantage of being an organ donor is you are able to give the gift of life – the ultimate gift.
I most definitely do not want to force anyone into becoming a organ donor, but it is an important topic I encourage everyone to discuss.
Why it’s important to have the discussion
Many people say, ‘it’s not my family’s business’ or ask ‘why would I need to tell them?’
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.
When and how to have the discussion
A lot of people hesitate in discussing organ donation because they don’t know how or when to have the discussion.
The Australian Government Organ and Tissue Authority has many resources available to help you start the discussion with your family.
Here are a few of their key points:
– Sitting down with your family for a meal
– Discussing your health with your partner
– Going for a check-up with your Doctor
– Hearing about someone who has become a donor, needs a transplant or has just had a transplant
– I saw this advertisement for organ donation…
– My friend just registered to be an organ donor…
– Did you know there are between 1,400 to 1,600 people on the Australian organ donation waiting list at any one time?
– I just heard this terrible accident on the news and it got me thinking about organ donation…
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.
If there is anything you take away from reading this, I hope it is to – Discover. Decide. Discuss.
Discover the facts about organ donation.
Decide if you want to be an organ donor or not.
Discuss your decision with your loved ones.