In 2020, Covid-19 impacted organ donor numbers in Australia, as hospitals were forced to scale back operations, while flight reductions and border closures added to the complexity.
The number of transplants last year fell 12 per cent from 2019, while the number of donors decreased by 16 per cent, meaning just 1270 patients received an organ from 463 deceased donors. Most significantly, 18 per cent fewer kidney patients received the transplants they needed last year, resulting in 153 fewer renal patients receiving a transplant, according to research from the Australian Government.
About 1700 Australians are currently waitlisted for a transplant and more than 12,000 others are on dialysis (many of whom may need a kidney transplant) but with the right planning you could become part of the solution. In fact, according to Transplant Australia, one organ and tissue donor can transform the lives of 10 people or more.
Thinking about what will happen to your organs in the event of your death can be a difficult topic to face, but if you don’t give instructions to the right people, it’s possible that your wishes may not be carried out. Here, we outline the three key steps you should take if you’d like to become an organ donor.
Step 1: Join the Australian Organ Donor Register
A common misconception is that Australians are registered for donation through their driver’s licence. In fact, state-based registries no longer exist.
South Australian residents can record their donation decision when applying for or renewing a licence and this information is then directly transferred to the national register. But, if you live in another state, you will need to join the Australian Organ Donor Register. Signing up online takes less than a minute but could one day make a huge difference to a sick person in need. The link is: donatelife.gov.au/register-doner-today.
Step 2: Inform your executor
Most people think about assets and family when making their will, but few consider specifying their wishes about organ donation. Even for those who do, there can be issues, as there is only a small window of opportunity to transplant the organs of a deceased person, so by the time the will has been reviewed, it may already be too late.
Legally, when a person dies, the right and responsibility to deal with their body passes to the executor. It is therefore essential that your executor is made aware of your intention to donate, so they can confirm your decision – should the need arise.
When making your will, you should also consider the different ways there are to contribute. In addition to organ and tissue donation you may also wish to donate your body to medical science to provide crucial material for the study of human anatomy. However, this requires a different registration process, usually through a university.
Step 3: Talk to your family
In Australia, family members are asked to provide consent to organ donation before it can proceed. Therefore it is important to discuss your donation wishes with your family, so they can feel comfortable about being part of the process.
Transplant Australia data shows that about 40 per cent of families decline donation each year. This is largely due to the family being unaware of their loved one’s wishes. Of the 51 per cent of Australians who do know the donation decisions of their family member, 94 per cent said they would uphold the decision.
Australia is a world leader in successful organ and tissue transplants, but only one in three Australians are registered as donors. This is despite the majority (nearly 70 per cent) believing that registering is important!
Now more than ever there is a need for Australians to say ‘yes’ to organ donation. It can be hard to think about what will happen to your body after you die but being a donor is a generous decision that is well worth making.
More about Equity Trustees’ wills and estate planning services are available on our website.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.
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