Starting the discussion

When is a good time to start a family discussion?

Today. You can use everyday situations to start a discussion on important life issues, including your decision about becoming an organ and tissue donation. This might include:

  • the next time your family sits down together for a meal
  • making a will or advanced health directive
  • getting life insurance or income protection
  • leaving home for the first time as a young adult
  • getting or renewing your driver’s licence
  • celebrating an anniversary with your partner
  • having a significant birthday: 21, 30, 40, 50 or more
  • getting a check-up at the GP
  • hearing about someone who has been a donor, needs a transplant or has had a transplant
  • watching donation and transplantation stories on TV or seeing a media article
  • seeing or hearing an ad on TV, radio or billboards
  • seeing a traumatic event in the news
  • after a friend or family member dies
  • when children discuss the topic at school.

If you have already had a discussion with your family about your donation decision, these events provide a good opportunity to repeat your decision to ensure they are remembered.

Repeated discussions are important. While most Australians have already had a discussion on organ and tissue donation with their family and friends, a smaller group actually know the donation decisions of family members. Make sure you know – and that they know.

Why does my family need to know my decision?

In Australia the family of every potential donor will be asked to confirm the donation decision of their loved one before donation proceeds. The offer of donation is made by trained health professionals.

Even if you have registered your decision to be a donor, your family will still be asked to support your decision.

The most important thing people want to know in order to make a decision about a family member becoming a donor is the decision of the deceased.

Many Australians have not informed their family of their donation decision. Many family members do not confidently know each other’s donation decision.

It’s not my family’s business

Yes it is. Your family will be asked confirm your decision to become a donor when you die.

I’ll think about it later

Most people who become donors die suddenly and unexpectedly. Now is the right time to have the discussion before the situation arises.

I don’t have time. I’m too busy

It does not take long to register your decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register and to have a discussion with your family.

My family won’t understand

Organ and tissue donation is a sensitive subject. The decision to become a donor is a personal and important one. To make the right decision for yourself, you need to have the facts so that your decision is informed. Your family might also need time to discover the facts and make their own decisions.

What to discuss?

Your family may have their own questions and topics to discuss, but some topics could include:

  • each person's own reasons on whether they wish to become a donor
  • whether there is anything that each person would not want to donate and why
  • asking everyone their reasons for and against donating organs and tissues
  • discussing myths and misconceptions 
  • discussing the facts about organ and tissue donation 
  • sharing some personal stories about organ and tissue donation. Does anyone in your family know someone that has received a transplant? If so, encourage them to tell that story. There are two stories included in this kit and a variety of other stories available to read in the Book of Life.

There are many misconceptions about organ and tissue donation. Some people mistakenly believe their religion does not support the act of donation. Others wrongly believe they are not fit or healthy enough to be a donor. The facts about organ and tissue donation are available in the Discover section and can be used to discuss and dispel myths that come up during your conversation.

For ideas on how to start the conversation, you can download the fact sheet ‘How to have the discussion about organ and tissue donation’.

Remember the discussion

It is important to know your family’s donation decisions because in Australia the family is always asked to confirm the donation decision of the deceased before donation for transplantation can proceed. A family is able to know each other's decisions by having a memorable discussion.


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the facts about organ and
tissue donation

  • Frequently asked questions
  • Understanding donation


and register on the Australian
Organ Donor Register

  • Register your decision


your donation decision with family and friends

  • Who needs to know?
  • How to start the discussion