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Organ and tissue donor

Thu 16th Jun 2022

Being an organ and tissue donor is something every Australian should consider. Wouldn't you want to learn more knowing you could help make a difference to someone's health or even save a life?

To understand why it's important, where to register and how your decision can help people waiting for transplants, read our article to help you come to a conclusion that is right for you.

What organ donation is

An extraordinary act of generosity, organ donation is when organs are legally authorised to be removed from a donor and then transplanted into a person who is either very unwell or dying from organ failure.

Organs can involve: kidneys, lungs, heart, liver, large intestine or pancreas.

What tissue donation is

Tissue donation is when tissue is legally authorised to be removed from a donor and then transplanted into another person.

Types of tissue include: heart valves, heart tissue, blood veins, bone, skin, ligaments, tendons, parts of the eye, pancreas tissue or amniotic tissue

Why organ and tissue donation is important

There are currently around 1,850 Australians on the waitlist and wait times can be anywhere between 6 months and 4 years. DonateLife said that due to the impacts of COVID-19, 2021 saw the 2nd year donation and transplantation services in Australia significantly reduced. This unfortunate decline follows from 10 years of continued growth since the Australian Government Organ and Tissue Authority - DonateLife program was established in 2009.

Organ donation process

Because only 2% of people who die in hospital can be considered for organ donation it is a rare event. A successful transplant can only happen following the death of someone in a hospital ICU or ED because the deceased's organs must be working to be transferred.

Who organ and tissue donation effects

It's a big misconception that a person can be too young, old or unhealthy to donate - almost everyone can help save another person's life by being an organ and tissue donor.

Your decision in being a donor could help another life in a number of ways. For example: a very unwell person suffering from kidney disease or a person who needs an urgent tissue transplant because they suffered severe burns and require skin grafts or surgery where bones need to be replaced or a new cornea in order to save a person's eyesight.

Who can be a donor

Almost every Australian can decide to be an organ and tissue donor if they are over the age of 18 and have legally recorded consent. People aged 16 or 17 do also have the option to register their interest.

Although medical history is considered, every Australian is reminded not to conclude they are too old, unhealthy or too young. This is a big misconception and an unfortunate one for there could be more donors than there are currently because of it.

It is important to have a conversation with your family about your decision to donate to avoid any confusion after you have passed away or should you become unfit to make decisions of this nature yourself.

Understanding living donation

Most people understand you can choose to donate your organs and tissue following your death, but did you know you can be a living donor too?

This occurs when someone donates a kidney or or part liver for example to another person, most often a relative or close friend. An anonymous donor is one who donates to a person they don't know on the transplant waiting list.

Because a living organ donor has to undergo major surgery and take on all the risks and long recovery that goes with it, the Australian government has a Supporting Living Organ Donors Program. This program supports donors who have given a kidney or part liver to someone who needed it. For more information (because there is a lot) you can visit health.gov.au to learn more.

How to register

You can either choose to be a living donor or be an organ and tissue donor after you die. Making the decision to do either is an extraordinary gift to pass on to another person and can make a life changing difference to a family's life.   The only place you can legally record becoming a living donor or an organ and tissue donor is with the Australian Organ Donor Register. If you have registered your decision to be a donor in the past - by ticking a box on your drivers licence for example, it is still important to check your donation status on the Australian Organ Donor Register.

If you need help making a decision or need more information on what you can donate, who can donate, the process of donation, the team at DonateLife are available Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm 1800 777... or www.donatelife.gov.au/

Sources:  

  • https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/organ-and-tissue-donation/organ-and-tissue-donation-in-australia
  • https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/organ-and-tissue-donation
  • https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/supporting-living-organ-donors-program