Myths about donation

One organ and tissue donor can transform the lives of many people. Australia's donation rate has more than doubled in recent years, but there is much more we need to do.

Myths about donation

Have questions or concerns? Here are some common myths surrounding donation.

Myth: If I am a registered donor, doctors won’t try as hard to save my life

Fact: The doctor’s first priority is always to save your life.

  • Medical and nursing staff work incredibly hard to save lives.
  • Organ and tissue donation will only be considered if you have died, or when death is expected. This is when the Australian Organ Donor Register is checked, and your family is asked about your wishes and to consent to donation before it proceeds.
  • One organ donor can save the lives of up to 7 people and help many more through eye and tissue donation.

Myth: It’s better to just let my family decide at the time

Fact: If you want to become an organ or tissue donor, you need to tell your family.

  • It makes it harder for families to decide if they don’t know what their family member wanted.
  • 8 out of 10 families say yes to donation if their family member had registered to be a donor.
  • When the family is uncertain about whether their family member wanted to be a donor, only 4 out of 10 families agree to donation.

Myth: It’s my choice – I don’t need to discuss it with my family

Fact: Your family will be asked if you wanted to be a donor and to provide consent to donation.

  • Even if you have registered, your family will be asked whether you still wanted to be a donor and to provide consent before donation proceeds.
  • Your family will be involved in each step of the donation process and be asked to provide vital health information.
  • Prepare your family so that they are comfortable being part of the process.

Myth: I can’t be a donor because I lived in the UK

Fact: You can donate your organs but not your tissues.

  • If you lived in the UK between 1980 and 1996 for a period of 6 or more consecutive months, you can still donate your organs.
  • You are not able to be a tissue donor due to the risk of transmitting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Myth: Organ and tissue donation will disfigure my body

Fact: Organ and tissue donation surgery is conducted with the same care as any other operation.

  • Organ and tissue donation surgery is performed like any other operation - in the hospital by a surgeon and their team.
  • You will have a surgical incision with sutures just like other operations, which is covered in a dressing and will not be visible beneath your clothes.
  • Your body will be treated with dignity and respect and your family can still have an open casket viewing if desired.

Myth: Organ and tissue donation is against my religion

Fact: All major religions support organ and tissue donation as an act of compassion and generosity.

  • All major religions, including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism, support organ and tissue donation.
  • Donation specialists can help your family to support your religious and cultural requirements.

Myth: I’m too old to be an organ and tissue donor

Fact: Age is not a barrier – people over 80 have become organ and tissue donors.

  • Don’t assume you are too old or not healthy enough.
  • If you die in a way that gives you the opportunity to be considered for donation, leave it to the medical team is assess if you can become a donor, and if so, they will talk with your family.

Myth: I’m already registered on my driver’s licence. I don’t need to do anything else

Fact: Unless you live in South Australia, you can no longer register to be a donor when applying for your driver’s licence.

Myth: I’m not healthy enough to donate because of my lifestyle choices

Fact: If you smoke, drink or have an unhealthy diet you can still register to be a donor. You don’t have to be in perfect health.

  • There’s every chance that some of your organs and tissues may be suitable for donation.
  • Only a few medical conditions may prevent you from being a donor.
  • You can trust the medical team at the time of your death to assess if you can be a donor.