Making the decision to become an organ donor
One organ and tissue donor can transform the lives of 10 or more people.
There are approximately 1500 Australians waiting for a transplant at any time. Some Australians die waiting for a transplant. Some spend weeks or months in hospital, with others making several trips to hospital every week for dialysis or other treatment.
People who need an organ transplant are usually very ill or dying because an organ is failing. They range from babies and children through to older people.
People who need a tissue transplant can also be of any age. In some cases, tissue can save lives. More often, it greatly improves the recipient's life.
Almost anyone can donate organs and tissues. The determining factors are where and how a person dies, and the conditions of their organs and tissues. While your age and medical history will be considered, you shouldn't assume you're too young, too old or not healthy enough to become a donor.
How to register
The Australian Organ Donor Register (the Donor Register) is the only national register for people to record their decision about becoming an organ and tissue donor for transplantation after death.
The Donor Register ensures a person's donation decision can be verified 24 hours a day, seven days a week by authorised personnel anywhere in Australia. In the event of a person's death, information about their donation decision, accessed from the Donor Register by authorised personnel, can be provided to the family of the deceased.
Recording your decision on the Donor Register is voluntary and you have complete choice over which organs and tissues you wish to donate. If you don't want to become an organ and tissue donor, you can register your decision not to donate on the Donor Register.
The Donor Register is not for registering decisions about donating organs and tissue for scientific research purposes or for the manufacture of biological medical products. For information regarding these processes, contact your local state health department.
To register to become an organ and tissue donor:
- visit donorregister.gov.au to register online
- call 1800 777 203
- visit a Medicare Service Centre
You must be 16 years or older to register your organ donation decision on the register.
Even if you have previously registered your decision elsewhere (for example by ticking a box on your driver’s licence renewal) it is still important that you register on the Australian Organ Donor Register as it is the only national register and details can be linked to your Medicare number.
To find out more, including your current status on the Australian Organ Donor Register, call Medicare Australia on 1800 777 203 or visit your local Medicare office.
Most importantly, you need to discuss your organ and tissue donation decision with your family as your family will always be asked to confirm your donation decision before donation for transplantation can proceed.
Why do I need to register?
When a person dies in a situation where they can become an organ and/or tissue donor, the possibility of donation is raised with the family.
The Australian Organ Donor Register is checked to find out whether the deceased person had registered their decision regarding organ and tissue donation. A donation specialist will meet with the family to talk about donation.
The family of a potential donor is given time to discuss and finalise the decision of whether to agree to donation proceeding. If donation is agreed, documentation will confirm the donation and which organs and tissues are being donated.
All states and territories have legal processes following family consent whereby a designated officer not involved in the clinical management of a potential donor must give authority for donation to proceed. This part of the process may also involve the state coroner if the circumstances of the potential donor's death are to be investigated by the coroner.
During and after the process, the donor's family is supported by DonateLife donation specialist staff and Donor Family Support Coordinators.
It is important to remember that in Australia the family will always be asked to confirm the donation decision of their loved one before donation for transplantation can proceed. That is why it is important that every family ask and know each other’s donation decisions.
Why discuss my decision?
It might seem that your organ and tissue donation decision only concerns yourself.
The people close to you – your next of kin – need to know your donation decision today. In the event of your death, they will be asked to confirm your donation decision.
The most important thing that helps a family's decision to proceed with donation is knowing the donation decision of their loved one. Families that have discussed and know each other's donation decisions are much more likely to uphold those decisions.
If you want your family to honour your decision, then they need to know. Discuss it today.
It is also important that you ask and know the donation decision of your family members so that, should the situation arise, you can uphold their decision.
For NSW Residents
The NSW Government decommissioned the Road and Maritime Services (RMS) Organ Donor Register in November 2012. All NSW residents are now encouraged to register their organ and tissue donation decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register.