I’m too old Hardly anyone is too old, or too young, to become a donor. Anyone can donate eyes. There are upper age limits for some organs: kidney donors, for example, are usually aged 75 or younger; heart donors 65 or younger. There are also lower age limitations for skin and bone (about age 15).
I have an illness that prevents donation Illness no longer necessarily poses a barrier to organ donation. The medical criteria for donation are broadening all the time. Someone who dies of cancer in palliative care, for example, can still donate their corneas. And a person with hepatitis C can successfully donate certain organs to another person with hepatitis C.
My body will be disfigured It’s a common and understandable fear that organ donation may involve disfigurement of the donor’s body – but it doesn’t. Like any other surgery, organ donation involves making, closing and dressing incisions and treating the body with respect. Family members can see and spend time with the body, before and after surgery. Normal funeral arrangements can be made, and consenting to donation doesn’t automatically mean the body can also be spirited off for use in research or scientific experiments.
I’m opposed because of my religion Most religions support organ donation as an act of charity and compassion. Shinto and Romany oppose donation, while others, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, impose certain conditions.
I’m concerned about who may receive my organs You won’t know who receives your organs, except in general terms (age, gender). Australian law requires the anonymity of both donor and recipient to be preserved. However, donor families and recipients often keep in contact anonymously through the DonateLife agency.
I’m concerned about cost There’s no cost to the donor’s family for donation, or any other treatment given, after death is certified (in a public or private hospital).
I’m concerned I won’t be dead, or doctors may not try hard enough to save my life Hospital staff are dedicated to saving life. Organs are only removed for transplantation once all attempts to save life have failed and after death has been certified by doctors who are entirely independent of the transplant team.
Take action now
If you’re willing to donate your organs after you die, you need to do two things now:
If you haven’t done so already, join the Australian Organ Donor Registry (AODR). Contact 1800 777 203, fill out a form at any Medicare office, or follow the links from the Organ and Tissue Authority.
Talk to your family about your decision. It’s not enough just to join the AODR or tick a box on your driver’s license. Regardless of any formal arrangements you’ve made indicating your intention to donate organs, your family has the final say in whether the donation goes ahead. In most cases where relatives refuse consent for an organ donation, it’s because they didn’t know their loved one’s wishes.