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Think about it, talk about it, do it
Sunday, February 20, 2011 is the beginning of the inaugural DonateLife Week in Australia.
This Federal Government initiative is a nationwide promotion of awareness of organ and tissue donation. To quote the DonateLife Week website, “The goal of DonateLife Week 2011 is to encourage Australians to talk about organ and tissue donation and to discuss their donation decision with the people closest to them.” Discussion with your family is important because, in the event of you death, family consent will be required for the removal of your organs for transplantation, even if you are a registered donor.
Registered donors are entered on the Australian Organ Donor Register. The Australian Organ Donor Register is a national register for organ and tissue donors and keeps a record of donors and the organs and/or tissues they agree to donate. Authorised medical personnel in Australia can access the register 24 hours a day to determine whether a deceased person has consented to donate organs and/or tissues. Donors must be 16 years or older to register. If you are not old enough to register, you can still donate by discussing you wishes with your parents or guardian.
My wife has been at me for years to sign up, insisting on the magnanimity of donation and need for more organ donors. I always managed to keep her at bay by promising to do it soon but, despite an uneasy feeling that she was right, I had no intention to do so. I have to admit, the subject always gave me the creeps.
While busy side stepping my wife’s exhortations, I puzzled over the root of my revulsion and pinpointed several causes, chief among them being vanity. The gruesome thought of my body being defaced post mortem overshadowed any good my innards might do for the needy. I wanted to be buried whole.
Confronting my own mortality also proved to be a significant factor influencing my negative attitude. Death becomes inevitable the day we are born, or even earlier. We are aware of this our entire lives but admitting to the reality of it by planning what will happen to our bodies once we die is something quite different and difficult.
Finally, there was the perhaps paranoid notion that medical staff, anywhere, might not do all they could to save a life – in this case mine – if they knew organs were required to save another, let’s say that of a friend or loved one.
But hallelujah, I’ve seen the light. In the course of researching for this post I have at last allayed my fears and registered as an organ donor. And not as just the donor of a mere one or two organs. No, I’ve put the whole lot on the table, so to speak, and my wife jumped for joy when she heard the news.
There is no age limit for donating organs and tissue. Eighty year olds have saved the lives of much younger people through the generous act of donation. Nor is it necessary to be in the peak of health to donate. Even if you smoke or drink, there is a very good chance at least some of your organs or tissues will be fit for use.
If you have been thinking about becoming an organ donor, or like me, you have been trying not to think about it, please go to the DonateLife Week website. This easy-access site is loaded with plenty of useful information including a very comprehensive FAQ section, contacts for each State and Territory, resources and fact sheets, news and events and registration details.
You can register online or at any Medicare office or by calling 1800 777 203.
Even if you have registered your decision to donate elsewhere, for example on your driver’s licence, you still need to register with the Australian Organ Donor Register as it is the only national register with details linked to Medicare.
To check your current status on the Australian Organ Donor Register call Medicare Australia on 1800 777 203 or call in to any Medicare office.
DonateLife has planned a range of events for all States and Territories throughout the week to engage the public and provide a context for discussion about organ donation. These include stalls and displays in hospitals, universities, shopping centres and clubs. There will also be debates and the launch of the DonateLife Book of Life as well as more interactive events such as:
DonateLife Beachwalk on Bondi Beach
2011 Classic Tasmania an international car rally for pre-1990 historic and classic competition cars
Ryobi One Day Cup an interstate cricket match between NSW and Victoria at the MCG
DonateLife Walk a community walk involving politicians, business and community leaders and anyone with energy enough to circumambulate Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin
Heart of Jenin a film to be screened in the Main Auditorium at The Canberra Hospital highlighting the importance of organ donation and the strength of human character. This film tells the story of a Palestinian boy shot and killed by Israeli soldiers and the lives of six Israeli children saved by the donation of his organs by the boy’s father.
Second Chance Classic Golf Day at Penrith Golf Club
Cycle of Giving an organised bicycle ride from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane
and much more.
Organ donation – think about it, talk about it, do it.