Organ and Tissue Donation

Organ and tissue donation can be a deeply personal, challenging and sometimes confronting issue, especially when contemplating a future scenario in which either you or a loved one may become involved in the process, either as a donor or as a recipient.

This edition of the Waiting Room, provided once again by our colleagues at Unified Healthcare Group, provides an introduction to organ and tissue donation – an issue that re-affirms our own mortality, but which we hope will be of value to you and your clients…

Organ and tissue donation is a process that can help save and transform lives.

Organ donation is a medical process where organs are removed from a donor and transplanted into someone who is very ill or dying from organ failure.

Tissue donation is a medical process where body tissue is removed from a donor and transplanted into another person.

What organs and tissues can be donated?

Organs Tissues
  • Kidneys
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Intestines
  • Heart valves
  • Bone tissue
  • Skin
  • Eye / corneas
  • Pancreas tissue
  • Ligaments and tendons

Why do people need transplants?

Organ transplants are performed on people who are very ill or dying because an organ is failing. People who need an organ transplant range from babies through to older people.

As opposed to an organ transplant, a tissue transplant is more likely to improve the recipient’s life rather than save it.

Why is it so important to become an organ and tissue donor?

By becoming an organ donor, you could one day change the lives of many:

  • One organ and tissue donor can save the lives of up to 10 people.1
  • One multi-tissue donor can benefit up to 30 people.2

Around 1,600 people in Australia are waiting for their life-saving second chance, a transplant. In 2014, 378 organ donors gave 1,117 Australians a new chance in life.

Since 2009 Australia’s donation rates have increased by 53%. However even if you are willing to donate your organs, the opportunity to donate organs is very rare. An organ donor must die in hospital, and less than 1% of people die in hospital in the specific circumstances where organ donation is possible.  Because organ donation is such a rare event, every opportunity must be optimised in order to save more lives.

Tissue donation is less limited, as body tissues can be donated up to 24 hours after death, regardless of where death occurred.

What do I need to do to become an organ and tissue donor?

If you want to become an organ donor, it is critical that you discuss your decision with your family. This is because the family of every potential donor will be asked to confirm the donation decision of their loved one before donation can proceed. The most important thing that helps a family’s decision is their knowing the donation decision of their loved one. It is also recommended to register your decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register.

You can register online (search “organ donor register”) or phone 1800 777 203.

Where can I find more information?

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The Waiting Room looks at of some of the common medical conditions which advisers may come across when dealing with clients.

Unified Healthcare Group serves Australia’s financial services industry by providing a one-stop solution for all medical requirements associated with life insurance claims and underwriting.

This article was written by Unified Healthcare Group National Medical Advisor, Dr Stephen Simonds

Contact or follow the author: Telephone: 1300 558 583 | Website | Email | LinkedIn

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  1. Organ and Tissue Authority. Facts and Statistics. Australian Government. 2014. Accessed at: donatelife.gov.au/discover/facts-and-statistics  

  2. Transplant Australia website. Accessed at: transplant.org.au