Organ donations and transplants are far more important than you would think.

Currently, only one in three Australians are registered to donate their organs and tissue after death, despite 69% believing that registering is important. This belief is very much founded as there are currently around 1,750 Australians on the waitlist for an organ transplant and 13,000 additional people on dialysis who need a kidney transplant. The wait-time for recipients on the waitlist varies in Australia between six months and four years, sometimes even longer. Despite this, a significant number of individuals believe that it is too difficult to become a donor or the process to become one takes too long. However, almost anyone in Australia can donate their organs and tissue, and it is not a complicated process. 

Walk to End the Wait Initiative – 

Gordon Rutty or Gordo to most people, is a passionate local Gold Coast resident who wants to raise awareness on the organ donation process in Australia. To increase awareness for organ donation in Australia, Gordo is participating in the “Walk to End the Wait” where he will walk 42 Kilometres for 14 Days, and in “The Orange Ball”, which will be held on Friday, 7 October 2022.  When asked about why he was passionate about this particular cause, Gordo stated that: 

Children with transplants have often experienced significant interruption to their schooling, sporting, and social life. They have missed out on team sports and the benefits of physical activity and sport. Transplant Australia helps these kids adapt to a life with a transplant and to focus on their physical wellbeing. At the World Transplant Games, they can meet other children who have a shared lived experience. Many of them get to take home a medal for ‘show and tell’.

Your support will provide subsidies for up to 50 transplant children and their families from around Australia. The money will help them with registration, accommodation, travel, and uniform expenses to represent Australia.”

These fundraising efforts are to celebrate children with transplants and their renewed life at the 2023 World Transplant Games in Perth.  For more information on Gordo’s mission, you can visit The Walk to end the wait webpage and the Gordon Rutty homepage.

How to become a donor 

In Australia, a person with capacity to make decisions for themselves can choose to donate their organs and tissue after death as long as they are over 18 and have recorded their consent with the Australian Organ Donation Register (AODR). However, if you are 16 or 17, you have the option to record your intentions to donate your organs and tissue with the AODR upon your death. 

For more information on how to become an organ donor, you can visit The Australian Organ Donor Registry.

When organs and tissue can be donated – 

Deceased Donor – 

For an organ and tissue donation to validly occur, it is essential that the deceased has legally died (i.e., brain death or cardiac death).  To be classified as brain dead in Australia, two medical practitioners are required to examine the person and certify that there is an irreversible cessation of brain function. This standard for determining death carries across all states and territories in Australia apart from Western Australia. As for cardiac death, a person must stop breathing and their heart circulating blood throughout the body. 

Living Donor – 

However, you can become a living donor to another person during your lifetime by registering yourself in the living donor program. Importantly, a living donor can only donate certain organs such as a kidney or partial liver. In 2020, there was an estimates 2,728 living tissue donors in Australia, which saved countless lives. 

For more information on how to register yourself as a living organ donor, you can visit the Living Donors Program and The Live Organ Donor Assistance Scheme .

Clause in your Will – 

To donate organs and tissue during your lifetime, you will need to register your intentions. However, you can formalise this intention further by including a clause in your Will that expresses your wish to donate after death. Nevertheless, medical staff will only follow your wishes upon death if you registered your organ donation with the ADOR, and discuss your intention to donate with your family and loved ones beforehand because they have the power to veto your decision to donate. 

Our Services – 

Our team of lawyers provide clear and timely advice and services on all areas of Wills and Estates law Australia-wide. Given that the legislative requirements for the construction and content of Wills, their execution, probate and administration and more changes from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it is highly beneficial to engage legal experts who are well-versed in these rules and regulations across all areas of Australia.

Donating organs or tissue is an important cause especially in Australia. Registering yourself with the ADOR or the Living Donors Program has the potential to save countless lives. Salerno Law wishes Gordo all the best with his Walk to End the Wait initiative and the annual “The Orange Ball” event. 

High Profile Examples of Organ Donations – 

Recently, US actress Anne Heche was taken off life support after being classified as being legally dead according to California law. Heche suffered a severe brain injury when she drove her car into a house in Los Angeles. Her body had been kept under life support by her family in case her organs could be donated. The actress was taken off life support once a compatible person was found to receive her organs. 

Another notable figure that donated their organs after death was Natasha Richardson, famous for her role in “The Parent Trap” remake form 1998, who unexpectedly passed away after a skiing accident in 2009. Before her death, Natasha’s family, which included her husband Liam Nesson and their two sons, decided to donate her organs to others who were fighting for their lives at the time. 

Other celebrities such as Selena Gomez, Sarah Hyland, and Tracy Morgan have been the beneficiaries of organ transplants. The most notable of the three was the emergency kidney transplant of Selena Gomez in 2017. The actress/singer had complications with her kidneys caused by the autoimmune disease, lupus. She had been put on a donor list in the US but would have had to wait seven to ten years, meaning that she would have had to be put on dialysis. A close friend of Gomez, Francia Raísa volunteered to donate her kidney to the actress leading to a successful transplant and recovery. 

Written By Gabriel Tirol