Organ donation

If a person wants to donate their organs after their death, it is important that family and friends know this. Donor consent can be registered with the Australian Organ Donor Register online or Freecall 1800 777 203 or by visiting a Medicare office.

It can also be noted on a driver’s licence. A NSW licence offers two options. Holders may specify that they have elected to donate:

  • any organ or tissue, or
  • particular organs or tissue.

If the person dies in hospital and certain conditions are met, their family may be approached for consent to organ donation. The Human Tissue Act 1983 (NSW), section 33 states that a person has died when:

  • all function of the brain of the person has irreversibly ceased
  • circulation of blood in the body has irreversibly ceased.

If, after reasonable inquiries, a deceased person can be shown to have agreed to organ donation during his or her life, then written authorisation can be given by the hospital, or the next of kin, for removal of such tissue. This will not apply if the coroner needs to hold an inquest.

If the deceased person’s views are not known, it is left to the next of kin to decide whether that person should become an organ donor. If the views of the deceased person are not known and no relative can be found, the person may be used as an organ donor.

Where a person is being kept alive by artificial ventilation and circulatory support, authority for organ donation cannot be given unless the patient has been declared brain dead independently by two medical practitioners, each with at least five years’ experience and one of whom is a specialist neurologist or neurosurgeon. The doctors will perform a number of tests to check for absence of brain stem function.

The most practical way of ensuring that your views about organ donation are made known to hospital staff is to always carry a signed written statement in your wallet indicating whether or not you are prepared to be an organ or tissue donor, or to register with the central register.