Organ and Tissue Authority

2020 deceased organ donation and transplantation

1,270 -12% from 2019

organ transplant
recipients from

463 -16% from 2019

deceased organ donors


organ transplant
recipients from


deceased organ donors

Over the past 12 years

organ transplant recipients from


deceased organ donors

  • In 2020, Australia’s deceased organ donation and transplantation rates dropped due to the emergence of COVID-19 in Australia.
  • There was a 12% decrease in the number of people receiving a transplant and a 16% decrease in the number of donors compared to 2019.
  • While the number of organ donors and transplant recipients dropped during March and April due to the temporary suspension of the kidney and pancreas transplant programs, the lives of 1,270 Australians still received transplants from 463 deceased organ donors in 2020.
  • Australia’s donation rate in 2019 had doubled since the Australian Government’s national program began in 2009. Our nationally coordinated program focuses on a best-practice clinical system driven by DonateLife specialists in hospitals combined with increasing community awareness.

Deceased organ donation and transplant recipients 2000-2020

Deceased organ donation and transplant recipients 2000–2020

Deceased organ donation and transplant recipients 2020

Deceased organ donors 2020 and 2019
2019 2020
Jan 44 40
Feb 36 41
Mar 54 39
Apr 42 23
May 50 48
Jun 51 26
Jul 37 38
Aug 56 43
Sep 35 46
Oct 71 40
Nov 39 41
Dec 33 38
Transplant recipients 2020 and 2019
2019 2020
Jan 117 111
Feb 109 119
Mar 133 104
Apr 110 33
May 132 149
Jun 141 66
Jul 102 100
Aug 142 124
Sep 94 120
Oct 181 125
Nov 100 113
Dec 83 106

Deceased organ donors 2009, 2019 and 2020

Transplant recipients from deceased donors 2009, 2019 and 2020

Australia’s potential deceased organ donor population and transplantation outcomes

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Causes of death, Australia, 2019 (Released 23/10/2020).
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Estimated Resident Population, 30 June 2020 (Released 17/12/2020).
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020. Admitted patient care 2018–19: Australian hospital statistics. Health services series no. 90. Cat. no. HSE 225. Canberra: AIHW.
  4. DonateLife Audit, February 2021.
  5. Deceased organ donation in Australia, Australia and New Zealand Organ Donor Registry, January 2021.
Organ donation is a rare event

Not everyone can become an organ donor when they die. To be an organ donor, a person must die in a hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) or emergency department (ED) and be medically assessed as suitable to donate organs for transplantation.

  • With donation possible in so few cases, and with so many people needing an organ transplant, it is vital more people say ‘yes’ to donation.
  • There are some medical conditions, such as active cancer, which may mean the patient is not a suitable organ donor.
  • There are currently around 1,650 Australians waitlisted for a transplant and more than 12,000 additional people are on dialysis – many who may need a kidney transplant.
  • Many more people can become eye and tissue donors. Eye and other tissues can be donated up to 24 hours after death, and donors do not have to die in a hospital.

Organ transplants from deceased donors

  Kidneys Livers Lungs Heart Pancreas Intestine
2020 704 276 158 148 47 1
2019 857 310 183 113 40 0
Diff. -153 -34 -25 +35 +7 +1
  • Kidneys make up more than half of organs transplanted. There were 153 less kidney transplants (18% down on 2019).
  • There were also 25 less lung transplants (14% down) and 34 less liver transplants (11% down on 2019).
  • The number of hearts and pancreas transplants increased compared with 2019. There were 35 more heart transplants (31% up on 2019) and seven more pancreas transplants (18% up on 2019).
  • Heart transplants increased notably in NSW where St Vincent’s Hospital has a world leading program transplanting hearts from circulatory death donors.
Organ transplants in Australia and New Zealand

In 2020, there were a small number of transplants in Australia of suitable organs (primarily livers, lungs and occasionally hearts) from New Zealand donors that were not able to be matched in New Zealand. Similarly, a small number of organs from Australian donors were transplanted in New Zealand. In previous years only organs transplanted from Australian donors have been reported.

The Transplant Society of Australia and New Zealand is funded by the Organ and Tissue Authority to develop and maintain protocols for the allocation of deceased organ donors to waitlisted patients across Australia and New Zealand.

Deceased organ donors by donation pathway

  • There are two pathways to deceased donation: Donation after Brain Death (DBD) and Donation after Circulatory Death (DCD).
  • Most donors are from the DBD pathway. In 2020, 325 deceased organ donors (70%) came from the DBD pathway, with 138 (30%) from the DCD pathway.
  • There was a 14% decrease in the number of donors from the DBD pathway and a 20% decrease in the number of donors from the DCD pathway. Typically DCD results in a lower number of organs suitable for transplantation compared with DBD.

Deceased organ donation and transplantation rates

  • The 2020 donation target for deceased donation was 25.0 donors per million population (dpmp).
  • The 463 deceased organ donors in 2020 resulted in a national donation rate of 18.0 dpmp, a decrease from the rate in 2019 (21.6 dpmp).
  • The transplantation rate was 49.4 transplant recipients per million population (trpmp); lower than 2019 (56.9 trpmp).

Deceased organ donation rates by jurisdiction

Note: The relatively small populations of the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania can result in substantial fluctuations in outcomes and donation rates from year to year.

  • State and territory outcomes in 2020 continued to demonstrate variation, with donation rates ranging from 12.2 dpmp to 26.0 dpmp.
  • South Australia was the leader in donation outcomes, achieving a donation rate of 26.0 dpmp, followed by Tasmania (24.0 dpmp).

Deceased organ donors and donation rates by jurisdiction

Graphic of native plants

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