How does donation work?

The donation and transplantation of organs and tissue involves donors, families and specialist medical and nursing teams.

Donation and families: what you can do?

The two vital things you can do are to register and tell your family.

  • Register to be a donor. Registering is important because it lets your family and the doctors and nurses know that you want to be a donor. It’s easy to register and only takes a minute. You need to be over 16.
  • Tell your family. It’s vital that your loved ones know you want to be a donor. This will help them make the decision when the time comes.

How organs and tissue are donated

The way you die affects the donation process and which organs and tissue can be donated.

To be an organ donor you need to die in a hospital, usually on a ventilator in Intensive Care, as your organs need to be working well to be transplanted.

Eye and tissue donation can occur up to 24 hours after your death, so you do not need to die in a hospital.

Organ donation will only proceed if there is a person on the waitlist for an organ that is a match with you.

During end-of-life care, the medical team and donation specialists will discuss the options with your family. Care, dignity and respect are always maintained.

Donation specialist staff will keep in contact with your family over the coming months and provide support and information.

There are also options for living donation.

How transplants happen

Donated organs or tissue can save and significantly improve the lives of many people who are sick or dying.

Around 1,750 people are currently on the waitlist for an organ transplant. Every person on the list has been assessed and has met eligibility requirements. People are usually on the waitlist for between 6 months and 4 years, but some wait even longer. There are also a further 13,000 on dialysis due to kidney failure who may need a kidney in the future.

One person donating their organs means up to 7 people can come off the waitlist.

Australia is internationally recognised for its successful organ transplants and the majority of people who receive transplants go on to lead full and active lives.

Organs such as the heart, lungs, liver and pancreas are matched by blood group, size, compatibility and urgency. Kidneys are matched by blood group and tissue compatibility.

No matter your culture, religion, gender, social status, disability or age (unless relevant), the person with the greatest need will receive the transplant.