The greatest gift: Organ donation

By Mariam Digges

The greatest gift: Organ donation
Organ donation specialist Jeanette Lacey helps us to shed some light on pros and cons of becoming a donor and the process involved.

What kind of factors do families need to consider when contemplating consenting to donation on behalf of a loved one?

While the majority of Australians are supportive of organ and tissue donation, many do not realise that the opportunity to donate organs is actually quite rare, with around one per cent of people dying in hospital under the specific circumstances where organ donation is possible. Tissue and eye donation, however, can occur under most circumstances.

In Australia, the family will always be asked to confirm the donation decision of the deceased before donation for transplantation can proceed. It is for this reason that we strongly encourage people to discuss their donation decision with their loved ones now, to ensure they are aware of what you would or would not like to donate at the time of your death.

What are the pros and cons of becoming an organ donor?

Donation does not occur quickly – there are important tests that need to be done to ensure that the best possible outcomes will be available for the recipients. For a family facing such a difficult time in hospital, it is challenging to see that there is any upside to the death of a loved one. However, sometimes families recognise that donation can be a positive thing during a time of tragedy – that by their loved one becoming a donor, they are helping to give others a second chance at life. If families know they can fulfill the last wish their loved one had – to become an organ and tissue donor – this can sometimes provide some comfort to families.

Could you describe what the donation process involves?

The family of a potential donor will always be provided with information about the donation process, before being asked to provide consent for donation to proceed. Donation specialist staff liaises closely with transplantation staff to determine which organs and tissues may be suitable for transplantation. The hospital staff is required to conduct blood tests and other investigations; they will also try to speak to the deceased’s GP and ask the family questions about their loved one’s medical and social history. This information is then provided to transplant centres, so that they can match the best possible transplant recipients to the donor.


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