Debunking Organ and Tissue Donation Myths

While the majority of Australians support organ and tissue donation, only around one in three are registered donors. Here’s why.
Debunking Organ and Tissue Donation Myths

Ever wondered how common organ donation is? Well, it’s actually not very common at all (this shocked us, too); it can only really happen when a very specific set of circumstances occur.

For everything to line up (so that organ donation can go ahead), a potential donor must die in a hospital Intensive Care Unit or Emergency Department. This is because their organs are more likely to be working well enough to be able to be transplanted. Even then, only around 2% of people who die in the right place can be considered for organ donation. Pretty crazy, right?

While there are often medical and logistical reasons outside anyone’s control which mean the conditions for organ donation won’t be met, we thought we’d take some time to dive deep into the myths and misconceptions around organ donation. Because there are heaps out there, and it’s important to understand why they’re incorrect (or partially incorrect).

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

Medical and nursing staff work incredibly hard to save lives, and this is always their first priority, regardless of a patient’s donor status. Organ and tissue donation will only be considered after doctors have done everything possible to save a patient’s life. In fact, the doctors won’t discuss the topic until the patient has died.

Myth: It’s better to leave it up to my family to decide when the time comes

Organ donation is a confronting topic for families to face immediately after the death of a loved one, and it can be challenging for them to have to make a decision on the spot if they aren’t 100% sure of your wishes.

You also can’t be sure of what they’ll decide for your organs and tissues if you aren’t there! So making the decision yourself is always your best bet, and ensures your organs and tissues are managed in a way you feel most comfortable with.

Myth: It’s my choice - my family doesn’t need to know what I’m choosing

This is true – your body, your rules, we say! – but we always believe it’s important for your family to know your preferences so they can make the decision you want them to when the time comes. While you might be a registered donor before passing away, your family will still be asked if being a tissue or organ donor was what you were wanting. They’ll also be heavily involved in every step of the donation process, providing vital health information when required and making occasional decisions on your behalf. Briefing them in on your wishes makes the process way easier for them.

Myth: Organ donation will mean there can’t be an open casket funeral or wake

Organ and tissue donation surgery is conducted with the same care and precision as any other operation performed in the hospital by surgeons. Any surgical incisions will be dressed and won’t be visible underneath clothing, so having an open casket shouldn’t be an issue at all.

Myth: Organ donation and tissue donation is against my religion

Some people opt not to become organ donors because they mistakenly think the concept clashes with the teachings of their faith. However, most religions actually support organ and tissue donation; they encourage it as an act of compassion and generosity, especially in any case where it can save a life. Ask local religious leaders or donation specialists if you have any questions around this topic.

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

Do you know anyone whose health is absolutely perfect? We certainly don’t! It’s almost impossible to be in perfect health in today’s modern age. The good part is, though, that you don’t have to be in perfect health to be an organ or tissue donor. If you smoke, drink or have an unhealthy diet, there’s every chance that some of your organs and tissue may still be suitable for donation. There are only a few medical conditions that may preclude you from donating, but a skilled medical team will be able to make that assessment at the time of death.

Wrap Up

Organ and tissue donation is no small event, and you should have all the information you want before you make a decision for yourself or for a loved one. Make the decision even easier by putting your wishes in your legal Will today.

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