The plot of my forthcoming book, The Gift of Life, hinges on a heart transplant, which occurred two years prior to the opening chapter.
According to statistics from Donate Life (also known at the government’s Organ and Tissue Authority (OTA) in Australia), most people in Australia (69%) are in favour of donating their organs at the time of death, though not all of those take the step of registering their intention officially on the national donation register.
You can find the register here. (I’m just wondering here if part of the difficulty with registering is that there isn’t an easy ‘catch phrase’ website to remember, rather than finding your way through the clunky Medicare Online site. Just a thought.)
Also, if you do not wish to donate your organs, you can register that intention at the same place.
However, even if you register your intention to donate, your family will still be asked to give the final consent for this to happen. This is why it is so important that you talk to your loved ones about your wishes. The statistics show that 90% of families agree to donation if their loved one took the time to register their intent; otherwise, this consent falls to just 59%.
According to Share Life (an organisation focused on increasing organ donation rates), Australia is a world leader in successful transplants, yet ranks 22nd in the world for the rates of organ donation. In some countries, including Spain, Austria and Belgium, organ donation consent is presumed unless you explicitly opt out, which increases their rate of organ donations.
Without doubt, the most important thing I learned while researching The Gift of Life was how important it is to have conversations about organ donation with your family now. Standing in ICU after a traumatic event is really not the time you want to be grappling with potentially difficult decisions. One of the things I looked at in the book was the situation in which the donating family member consented to the donation, but didn’t do it in a way that left her feeling any peace about it, and the fallout for her after that happened. These are big, important decisions and discussions and far better to be able to take the time to have them at your leisure over a cup of tea in the kitchen than when it’s too late.