30th August 2019 is Jersey Day. The Eye Practice team in Sydney’s CBD – self-confessed sports nuts – are wearing their favourite team’s jerseys to promote awareness of The Organ and Tissue Authority and the Donate Life network.
Organ donation in Australia – the facts
Donate Life, the Australian organ and tissue donation authority, is a wonderful source of information about organ and tissue donation in this country:
- Last year in Australia, 1,782 people’s lives were transformed by 554 deceased and 238 living organ donors.
- The same year, over 10,000 Australians benefited from tissue donation (skin, cornea etc).
- Around 1,400 Australians are currently waitlisted for a life-saving organ transplant.
- Over two-thirds of Australians are willing to donate their organs and tissues when they die.
- But only 1 in 3 are registered donors, despite 69% believing registering is important.
- Nine in ten families say yes to donation when their loved one is a registered donor.
What is Jersey Day?
Jersey Day is an awareness campaign that encourages people to wear their favourite sporting team’s jersey with the goal of promoting awareness of organ and tissue donation and to encourage bringing up the conversation with friends and family.
The map below shows the percentage of Australian’s (nationally and by state) who are registered organ donors.
Donate Life encourages everyone to discuss organ donation with family and other loved ones to ensure that those who would like to donate their organs and tissues have the opportunity to do so.
What’s the difference between organ donation and tissue donation?
Most people are familiar with the concept of being an organ donor – donating an organ such as heart, lungs, pancreas, liver or kidneys after death.
But fewer people know that these organs can only be successfully transplanted if death occurs in certain settings within a hospital, such as the intensive care unit (ICU).
Other tissues can be donated up to 24 hours after death, even if the death occurs at home or elsewhere outside a hospital. These tissues include skin, bone, tendons and ligaments, heart valves and parts of the eye including your cornea (clear part of your eye) and sclera (the white of the eye).
These tissues can be successfully stored, while large organs need to be immediately transplanted. This means far more people can successfully donate tissue, compared to the few who can donate their organs because their death occurred in a hospital ICU with facilities for donation.
What difference can you make as a corneal donor?
If you donate your corneas – the transparent tissue at the front of your eyes – after your death, you can transform not one but two lives by providing the recipients of your tissue with functional vision.
More than 1,200 corneal transplants are performed in Australia each year. These corneas go to those most in need, where their own corneas are scarred or diseased to the point that they cannot see clearly enough to lead a normal life.
You can read more about corneal transplant HERE. It is most commonly performed on people who have a corneal disease, such as keratoconus, or who have had major trauma to their eyes.
What can I do if I’ve decided to become a donor?
- Register. If you’re over 18, you can fully REGISTER. If you’re over 16, but not yet 18, you can an ‘intent to be an organ and tissue donor’ HERE. Children cannot be registered by their parents, but their family can approve donation after they pass away. State-based driver’s licence donor registers no longer exist. Even if you’ve previously registered to be a donor on your driver’s licence, you now need to join the Australian Organ Donor Register – it takes less than a minute.
- Discuss your wishes with your family. They need to know. They will be asked for their consent for your organ donation in the event of your death, even if you are registered. Their decision can override your wishes.
Why do we need to bring the discussion of organ donation to family and friends?
- 90% of families consent to organ donation if their loved one was a registered donor. (But that still leaves 10% of families who do not consent to organ donation by their love one in the event of their death, even if they’re registered).
- Make sure your family knows that organ donation is important to you. Remember, the main reason families don’t agree to donation is because they don’t know it was what you wanted.
- Less than half of families will consent to the donation of your organs if they don’t know you wanted to be donor.
- Almost 3 quarters of families will consent if they know your wishes, and this increases to 90% if you are also registered.