While the majority of Australians support organ and tissue donation, only approximately 1 in 3 (or 36 per cent) are registered to be a donor. But did you know that just one organ and tissue donor can transform the lives of so many people – recipients and their families alike?
Since the national Organ and Tissue Authority was created in 2009, more than 16,700 people have received life-saving organ transplants from 5,904 deceased organ donors. In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of organ donation for donors, recipients and their respective families and loved ones.
Benefits for organ recipients
A new organ can dramatically enhance the organ recipient’s lifespan and quality of life. For example, a transplant could allow a recipient to live without medication for the first time since their diagnosis. Or, a transplant could allow a recipient to go about their lives without the expensive or lengthy treatments that were keeping them alive prior to their transplant.
While some recipients can be kept alive with dialysis, ventilators or other medical devices while they wait for a new organ – with a transplant, they can live for many more years.
Benefits for the donor and the donor’s family
People register to be organ donors out of the goodness of their hearts. It truly is the biggest gift one can give, and is a remarkable legacy to leave behind. However, the act of organ donation (particularly after an unexpected death) can also help a donor’s family grieve during such an unimaginably painful time, as families may feel comforted knowing that their loved one has given others the gift of life.
The Benefits of Living Donations
In some cases, people may choose to donate a kidney, a section of their liver or lung, or a part of the pancreas or intestine to a friend, loved one, or even a stranger… while they are still alive. This is called a living donation. While this can carry risks for the donor (as all surgeries carry a degree of risk) – living donors are able to see the effects of their donation.
If a living donor has donated a part of their body to a friend or a loved one, they are able to potentially spend many more happy years with them. If they have donated to a complete stranger, in some cases the recipient and their family like to keep in touch, allowing the living donor opportunities to see firsthand the effects of their donation and the lives that they have touched.
Benefits of Medical Research
Some people choose to donate their whole body; others do not. For those who choose the former, the parts that can’t be used to help a recipient can be used for medical research to help future transplant recipients.
How to register as an organ and tissue donor
The easiest way to become an organ and tissue donor is to register here. You can also register as one online via Services Australia, or by using the Services Australia app or filling in a printed form.
Second to this, you can let your family know that should anything unexpected happen, you’d like to be a donor.
Lastly, you can also include these wishes in your Will. Keep in mind that if you do not register, you are still able to donate organs after death. (This usually only becomes difficult when a family is unsure of their loved one's wishes… which is why it’s so important that you make your wishes known).
A note on donating when you have religious or cultural beliefs
Some people believe they are unable to donate their organs and tissue due to religious or cultural beliefs. In Australia, all major religions such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and most branches of Judaism support organ and tissue donation. In fact, most religions view it as a generous and loving act towards others.
If you’d like more information, talk to your local religious leader or a donation specialist who is able to help you and your family to honour and support your religious and cultural beliefs and requirements.
A note on donating when you live with one or multiple chronic illnesses
Contrary to popular belief, people who live with chronic illnesses are, in fact, eligible to register as organ and tissue donors. Regardless of age or health status, every person has the potential to be an organ and tissue donor.
While we know that organ and tissue donation can help the recipient and the donor’s family, the benefits reach beyond that – to the recipient's loved ones, as well.
To ensure your organ donation wishes are followed, be sure to:
Ultimately, giving not just one person, but multiple people, the gift of life and more time to spend with their friends and loved ones is a truly remarkable thing. It’s the greatest gift anyone can give, and a powerful legacy to leave behind.
Create or update your legal Will today to include your wishes about organ donation.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, accounting or tax advice.