Every Australian has the potential to save lives by discovering the facts about organ and tissue donation, deciding to become a donor and discussing their decision with family.
This kit is a practical guide to assist families in having an informed and memorable family discussion about organ and tissue donation.
Around 1600 people are on Australian organ transplant waiting lists. On average these people can wait between six months and four years.
There are many more Australians who are not currently on waiting lists and whose lives would be greatly improved through the benefit of organ and tissue transplantation.
Organ and tissue transplantation is a highly successful treatment that transforms the lives of individuals and their families. More than 30,000 Australians have benefited since transplantation first became a standard treatment option.
Australia has a world class reputation for successful transplant outcomes and 98% of Australians agree that organ and tissue donation improves lives. Despite the high level of public support, Australia's family consent rate to proceed to donation is less than 60%. The challenge is to close the gap between this very high level of support for donation and the ultimate ability for organ and tissue donation to proceed, which is predicated on family consent.
We know families are more likely to give consent when they know the wishes of their loved one, but research indicates 40% of Australian's do not know the donation wishes of family members.
Why have the discussion?
Almost one third of all Australians don't realise that their family will be asked to confirm their wishes about possible organ and tissue donation.
Registering to be an organ and tissue donor is not enough. Even if you register your wish to be a donor, your family will still be asked to give consent.
After you have discovered the facts about organ and tissue donation, and made an informed decision to become an organ and tissue donor, it is important that your family know your wishes and that you know theirs.
Starting the discussion
You can help your family and friends have – and remember – the discussion.
Consider using the DonateLife Family stories, Discussion questions and Myths resources in this kit as icebreakers and knowledge building tools for your discussion.
Everyday situations can also offer the ideal start to a conversation. Here are some suggested situations:
- 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
- when children discuss the topic at school
- before starting extensive travel or going overseas to work
- the next time your family sits down together for a meal
- at Christmas time or holiday periods when your family is together
- at a family reunion or family celebration
- making a will or advanced health directive
- getting life insurance or income protection
- leaving home for the first time as a young adult
- celebrating an anniversary
- having a significant birthday: 21, 30, 40, 50 or more
- getting a check-up at the GP.
Once you have had a discussion with your family about each others wishes, these events can provide a good opportunity to repeat your wishes to ensure they are remembered.
Who should discuss?
Everyone. Every family.
Everyone has their own reason for deciding whether to become an organ and tissue donor, and it is important that family, partners and friends understand those reasons.
It's important that your family remembers the discussion so that if they are ever faced with having to make the decision about you, they immediately know your wishes. It is also important that you know each of your family member's wishes.
What to discuss
This will vary family-to-family, but some discussion 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 online at www.donatelife.gov.au.
There are many misconceptions about organ and tissue donation. Some people mistakenly believe their religion opposes the act of donation. Others wrongly believe they are not fit or healthy enough to be a donor.
You can use this resource to initiate a family discussion, or as a reference tool.
What is the second most transplanted tissue in the world?
Bone is the second most transplanted tissue in the world, second only to blood. Bone grafts are often more effective than artificial alternatives, and can make reconstruction more feasible or shorten recovery time.
Approximately what percentage of Australians support organ and tissue donation?
98 percent of Australians agree that organ and tissue donation can save and improve lives.
What percentage of families consent to organ and tissue donation when they are approached in a hospital about their loved one?
Only 56 percent of families consent to organ donation when approached by professional staff in the hospital.
True or false: Doctors won't work as hard to save my life if they know I am a donor.
False. Medical staff do everything possible to save lives. Their first duty is to you and saving your life. Organ and tissue donation will only be considered after all efforts have been exhausted.
How many lives can one organ and tissue donor potentially save?
One organ and tissue donor can save up to ten lives and significantly improve the lives of dozens more.
True or false: Australia has a world class reputation for successful transplant outcomes?
True. However Australia's rate of donation is low among western countries.
Do most religions support or oppose organ and tissue donation?
Most religions support organ and tissue donation as an act of charity and goodwill.
Remember the discussion
A DonateLife Family is a family that know each other's wishes about organ and tissue donation.
It is important to know these wishes because the family is always asked to give consent for organ and tissue donation to take place. A family is able to know each other's wishes by having a memorable discussion.
After the discussion
Get involved and stay in touch
After you have discovered the facts about organ and tissue donation, made an informed decision and discussed this decision, there are other actions you can take. Stay in touch, get involved and help us continue to raise awareness. Here are some suggestions:
Become a Facebook fan: www.facebook.com/DonateLifeAustralia. Add your comments and contribute to discussions.
Follow us on Twitter.
Contact your local DonateLife agency to request materials to support you in hosting an awareness raising event.
Discuss organ donation with extended family and friends and help us to dispel the myths and close the gap between people supporting organ and tissue donation and those that actually consent to it when the time comes. Encourage people to Discover the facts, Decide about becoming a donor and register your decision and, most importantly, Discuss this decision with family and friends.
Get involved with a local community organisation
Community organisations play a very important role within the organ and tissue donation and transplantation sector. They provide both essential awareness events to the Australian community and also act as advocates for the community, within the clinical sector and with government.
They represent and support donor families, transplant recipients and even families awaiting transplantation.