A person can donate their organs after their death. It is advisable to think about whether you would like to donate your organs when drafting your will and informing your relatives.
When can I donate?
Donations of most organs can only take place after death has been certified by being declared as brain dead or cardiac dead.
What is the process of donation?
The Australian Organ Donor Register is checked to see whether the person has registered consent or objection. If there is no written or verbal objection to donation or the person had not registered, the family will be given information about the process and asked whether they agree to donation. Donation will not go ahead without the family's agreement.
How can I register as an organ donor?
Organ donations in Australia can only be performed with the informed consent of the deceased person, or the family of a person who has not registered either way.
If you are 16 or 17, you can register your intent to donate. Persons who are 18 or over can register their consent or objection on the Organ Donor Register. You will also need to specify which organs and tissues you wish to donate.
A written form in the mail will be sent, and it must be signed and sent back. This confirmation letter means your legal consent to organ and tissue donation will be registered.
What about my relatives?
It is important to note that even if a person has registered their consent or objection to organ and tissue donation, the family will still be consulted about the issue. The registered wishes of the deceased will be respected. However, the family will be asked if there are any circumstances that the person would wish to be taken into account. Secondly, they will be asked whether the person may have had a change of opinion since registering. If the deceased person has not registered their consent, the donation will not go ahead without the consent of the family.
Can I assume my intent to donate will be presumed?
Australia has an "opting in" system to organ donating. It will be presumed you do not want to donate your organs if your relatives did not know of your views, it is not contained within your will or you are not registered.
Those who are 16 or 17 who have registered their intent will still need their family's consent to be donors.
Can anyone donate?
There are exclusion criteria for organ donation. Those who are excluded from donating are those with:
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV);
- current neoplastic disease other than primary brain tumour and non-malignant skin cancers; or
- systemic viral infections/uncontrolled sepsis eg measles, rabies, adenovirus, enterovirus, parvovirus and herpes encephalitis.
If you are aware of your preference to donate your organs after death, it is advisable to speak to your family members and a legal professional to ensure your views are upheld after your death.