If there’s one thing none of us want to think about it’s probably death. So let’s think about life instead – giving life, helping lives, saving lives. Now that’s something worth talking about, surely. So let’s do it, let’s talk about organ donation. When you think about it, it’s the ultimate form of recycling and the rewards, for the recipient at least, are life-changing. It’s sort of life after death. Paul Swift knows this only too well. Paul had a genetic condition that affected his kidneys and he spent more than three years on the organ transplant waiting list. During this period Paul underwent regular haemodialysis treatment, which went for five hours every second day. This meant he couldn’t travel or plan too far ahead.
All that changed in 2015, thanks to a generous donor. Paul says he now feels much stronger and can spend more quality time with his grandchildren. And, for the first time in years, they can plan an overseas trip. 'It’s been about 19 months now so I’m out of the danger period in terms of my body rejecting the kidney' he says.
Dr Sam Radford, DonateLife Victoria deputy state medical director, says many seniors rule themselves out from registering as an organ donor in the mistaken belief age, illness, ailments or past health habits will make them unsuitable. This is one of the biggest myths amongst older Victorians about organ and tissue donation, he says.
In reality, there are very few medical conditions that will rule someone out from becoming an organ and tissue donor.
We do extensive testing at the time to assess whether someone is suitable to be a potential donor. As our population ages, so too does the average age of organ and tissue donors. In 2015, 43 per cent of deceased organ donors were over the age of 55. People aged well into their eighties have become corneal and tissue donors.
Waiting lists for donors show no signs of shortening, currently there are more than 1,800 patients waiting for a second chance.
It's important to register as a donor, Paul says. Speaking from experience you are giving life. I am so grateful for the life I can now enjoy.
Like Paul, there were 1,174 Australians who receiving an organ transplant in 2021, thanks to the generosity of 421 deceased organ donors and their families.
Dr Radford says registering your donation decision and talking to your loved ones makes a big difference. Nine in 10 families say yes to donation when the person is registered and they know what their loved one wanted, he says.
If your family is aware of what your donation decision is, it can ease the burden of uncertainty at a time when there is a lot of emotion and grief.
How you can help others
- Start the discussion with your family about your decision to become a donor. Find out if they have made their own decision about organ and tissue donation.
- Include your organ and tissue donation decision in your end-of-life planning document and tell your loved ones.
- Sign up to the Australian Organ Donor Register online at or visit your nearest Medicare branch.
Reviewed 06 January 2023