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The organ and tissue donation process is about making informed choices and discussing them with your family
Everyone has their own reasons regarding whether to become an organ and tissue donor. Dr Arvind Rajamani, an Intensive Care Specialist at Nepean Hospital, has been working in the field of organ and tissue donation for the past seven years. After completing most of his medical training in India, Dr Rajamani has been in Australia since 2004. In both Australia and India he has seen high incidences of people who have the desire to donate, but are confronted by the many myths and misconceptions surrounding the organ and tissue donation process.
Dr Rajamani sat down with Indian Link to tell us about the importance of broaching this sensitive subject with your family.
What is the most rewarding thing about working in organ and tissue donation?
The fact that you can help people and see the good coming out of a bad situation. I can see the donation taking place and the difference it makes to the donor family. I don’t see the recipients, but I still get to see some benefit coming out of a tragedy. The donor family finds it rewarding and life-changing themselves. There is a transformation of the situation. Even though they’re grieving, there is someone who can benefit from their loss, whose life can be changed for the better.
Why is organ and tissue donation important to all Australians?
Organ and tissue donation is important not just for Australians, but for everyone in the world. There are lots of people dying from organ failure, suffering with organ failure. The current statistics show there are around 1500 people in need of a transplant, and more than 10,000 Australians on dialysis. Often, people die waiting for a transplant. When a transplant happens, their lives are transformed.
Rather than confine healthy organs to burial or cremation, there is a need to transform that organ for a new use. People can become fathers and mothers again to their children, contribute to society by working again… it’s something you can’t put into words. It goes to the altruism of the donor and their family.
What faith and cultural groups in Australia support organ and tissue donation?
As far as I understand, almost everyone supports organ and tissue donation. Most major religions are supportive and so are most cultural groups. This is a human thing. Most of the time people want to donate, but might be concerned. Without the facts, grieving families sometimes make decisions that are not in line with their loved ones desires, so we need to dispel the misconceptions.
Is someone more likely to receive a transplant from another person who has a similar ethnic background?
Officially, transplants are not screened or matched according to race or ethnicity, but the medical criteria doctors use means someone who has a similar ethnic background will probably be a good match. The best match is usually a sibling or family member, but there is also a greater likelihood of a good match within the same broader ethnic community. Every race should act on the issue of organ and tissue donation.
Why is it important to register on the Australian Organ Donor Register?
It is important for an individual to consider and make up their own mind about donation. Then, it is about how they communicate those wishes to their family. Previously, people could mark themselves as organ donors on their driver’s license, but we found there were too many problems with that system, so it is no longer an option.
How do you register to become and organ and tissue donor?
There are three steps we ask people to undertake in becoming an organ and tissue donor:
Discover – learn the facts about organ donation,
Decide – make your own, personal decision,
Discuss – communicate with your loved ones.
There is a way to register online, which is an incredibly easy process, or you can put your wishes formally in writing through printed forms available from Medicare.
Do you need to tell your family what your donation decisions are?
It is vital to tell your family about your decision. Even if you decide to donate, at the time it will happen you will be unconscious and unable to communicate your wishes. It is your family who will ultimately make the decision, and they can overturn the wishes of an individual. But the statistics show when it donation is discussed with the family while the patient was alive, they almost never overturn their loved one’s wishes. It is the most important thing to talk about it with your family.
DonateLife Thank You Day is Sunday 20 November 2016. This is Australia’s national day to acknowledge living and deceased organ and tissue donors and their families.
For more information visit donatelife.gov.au