Organ and Tissue Authority

Myths and misconceptions

  • Myth: It’s better to just let my family decide at the time
    Fact: 
    If you want to become an organ or tissue donor – you need to tell your family.
    • A main reason that families decline donation is because they simply don’t know what their loved one wanted.
    • 73% of families that have prior knowledge of their loved one’s willingness to donate say ‘yes’. This increases to 90% when the deceased is a registered donor.
    • When the family is unaware of their loved one’s donation decision, only 44% of families agree to donation.
  • Myth: I can’t be an organ and tissue donor because I lived in the UK.
    Fact: 
    You can donate your organs but not your tissues.
    • If you lived in the UK between 1980 – 1996 for a period of six or more consecutive months you can still become an organ donor.
    • At present however you are not able to be a blood or tissue donor due to the risk of transmitting Creutzdfeldt-Jakob disease.
    • The determining factors are where and how a person dies, and the condition of their organs and tissue including consideration of the deceased’s age and medical history. If you’re willing to save lives as an organ donor join the Australian Organ Donor Register today and discuss it with your loved ones.
  • Myth: Organ and tissue donation disfigures the body
    Fact: 
    Organ donation is specialised surgery and does not disfigure the body
    • Organ and tissue retrieval is performed by highly skilled surgical and health professional teams.
    • The surgical incision made during the procedure will be closed and covered as in any other operation and will not be visible beneath the person's clothes.
    • The donor’s body is always treated with dignity and respect and the family can still have an open casket viewing if desired.
  • Myth: It’s my choice – I don’t need to discuss it with my family
    Fact: 
    Your family needs to know. They will be asked to confirm your decision.
    • Families play a crucial role in the donation process because they are asked to confirm the donation decision of their loved one.
    • The family will be involved in each step of the donation process and be asked to provide vital health information – even if you have registered your decision.
    • If you’ve decided to become a donor, you need to register your decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register.
    • Most importantly you need to discuss your decision with your loved ones. Prepare your family so that they are comfortable being part of the process.
  • Myth: Organ and tissue donation is against my religion
    Fact: 
    All major religions support organ and tissue donation as an act of compassion and generosity.
    • All major religions including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism support organ and tissue donation.
    • The organ and tissue donation process can accommodate religious and cultural end of life requirements.
  • Myth: If I am a registered donor, doctors won’t try as hard to save my life
    Fact: 
    The doctor’s first priority is always to save your life.
    • Saving your life is the absolute priority of medical staff – health staff, doctors and nurses work incredibly hard to save people’s lives.
    • Organ and tissue donation is only considered when the person has died or death is inevitable, at which time the Australian Organ Donor Register is checked and the family is asked to confirm their loved one’s donation decision.
    • One organ and tissue donor can save and transform the lives of many.
  • Myth: I’m too old to be an organ and tissue donor
    Fact: 
    Age is not a barrier - people over 80 have become organ and tissue donors.
    • People in their 70’s and 80's have saved the lives of others through organ and tissue donation.
    • While your age and medical history will be considered, you shouldn’t assume you are too old or not healthy enough.
    • Every potential donor is assessed on an individual basis. There is every possibility you may be able to donate your organs or tissues.
  • Myth: I’m not healthy enough to donate because of my lifestyle choices
    Fact: 
    People who smoke, drink or have an unhealthy diet can still donate. You don’t have to be in perfect health to save lives.
    • There’s every chance that some of your organs and tissues may be suitable for donation. Don’t rule yourself out – count yourself in!
    • The determining factors are where and how a person dies, and the condition of their organ and tissues.
    • The important thing is if you are willing to one day save lives as a donor, register and discuss your decision today.
  • Myth: I’m already registered on my driver’s licence. I don’t need to do anything else.
    Fact: 
    You need to join the Australian Organ Donor Register – state-based driver’s licence donor registries no longer exist.
    • If you 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.
    • You can no longer register to be an organ and tissue donor on your driver’s licence. State-based licence donor registries, whereby you registered to be a donor on your driver’s licence, no longer exist.
    • SA residents can however record their donation decision when applying for or renewing their driver’s licence, which is then transferred directly to the Australian Organ Donor Register.