In Australia, you can become an organ donor by registering your wishes with the Australian Organ Donor Register (“opt in”). Even if you have registered, this in itself is not sufficient: family members will be asked, following your death, if you continued to hold your views up to your death and whether they consent to you donating your organs. If they do not consent, then your organs will not be donated.
Although many people agree that organ donation is to be applauded, most do not register. As a result, there are long waiting lists, and unfortunately, some have passed away before receiving their life-saving organ donation.
Several countries, such as Wales, England, Iceland, France and the Netherlands, have changed or are changing their legislation to essentially have an “opt out” system. There, you are presumed to have given your consent to be a donor unless you have opted out. This can also be described as a tacit consent (silent consent).
There are still differences between these countries as there are soft opt-out systems and hard opt-out systems. Some do not even have a register. So, do the next of kin still have a say in what happens with their loved one’s organs? If the system is a “soft opt-out” system, they do. If the system is a “hard opt-out” system, they do not. For example, France has a “hard opt-out” system where a doctor only has to inform the relatives which organs are to be donated, without actually asking their permission. Spain, on the other hand, has a “soft opt-out” system and ranks highest in organ donations (although it is said that this is not as a result of their legislation, rather than the Spanish being more suitable candidates for organ donation).
Irrespective of what your views are on what the best system is, if you wish to be an organ donor, be sure to discuss it with your family, and your estate planning lawyer, who can ensure that your wish is reflected in your Will.
Australian Organ Donor Register: https://donatelife.gov.au/register-donor-today
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