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Andrew Byrne

When our clients are reviewing their wills, it's not uncommon for them to want to record their wish to become an organ donor in their will.

Unfortunately, by the time family members have turned their mind to the question of a deceased loved one's will, their organs are unlikely to be of any use.

There are only very limited circumstances in which human organs can be 'harvested', and only an extremely limited window of opportunity to so.

Only people who have suffered brain death - that is, their brain has died while the rest of their body has continued to function, usually on a ventilator - are capable of donating organs.

But that doesn't mean you can't put in place plans to ensure that you are able to give the gift of life upon your death if the circumstances are right.

The first steps should be signing up to the Australian Government's new organ donor registry. Then you should discuss your wishes to be an organ donor with your loved ones.

Even when someone has joined the organ donor's registry, doctors will rarely use that person's organs if their grieving family members do not agree to it.

Dealing with a loved one's death is terrible enough; being asked to consider whether or not that person's organs should be harvested can be too much to deal with.

According to government statistics, while almost 80 per cent of Australians are willing to become organ donors, less than 60 per cent of grieving families give consent for organ donation to proceed. 43 per cent of people say they aren't sure what those closest to them want.

But if those grieving families have been told what their loved one wanted, it can take a horrible burden off their shoulders and give them comfort knowing some good may come from the death.

For those unlucky Australians waiting and desperately hoping for an organ donor match, it can be the difference between life and death.

According to, the official website of the Australian Organ Donor Registry, there are 1,600 people on organ donor waiting lists in Australia at any one time.

One average they will spend anywhere between six months and four years waiting for the right organ donor to come along. Some will die waiting.

One single donor can transform the lives of ten or more people. Yet Australia still has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the world.

So bad is the problem that the Victorian Government to recently began considering a 'presumed consent' model, where everyone is presumed to consent to their organs being donated unless they specifically 'opt-out'.

In the meantime, the Federal Government is hoping that the introduction of the new national organ donor registry and a high-profile awareness raising campaign will boost donation rates.

Previously, the process for recording your intention to be an organ donor was different in every state. The new register provides a one-stop-shop where people can easily and quickly confirm their intentions.

Doctors in emergency rooms across the country have 24-hour access to the register so they can begin the search for potential organ recipients from the earliest possible moment.

Registering as a donor is easy. Visit, call 1800 777 203 or visit any Medicare office to record your details. You can also use the register if you want to record that you object to your organs being harvested.

Even if you have been on another register in the past, it is important that you register on the national organ register, so your information can be linked to your Medicare number.

Registration takes a few minutes - but it could save a life. 

Andrew Byrne and Gillian Stevenson of BJT's Wills and Estates team are available for expert advice on your will and estate planning strategy. Make sure your affairs are in order by making an appointment with them today on (03) 5333 8888.


2019 Ballarat Cycle Classic

2019 Ballarat Cycle Classic

BJT Legal are proud to support the Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute in the 2019 Ballarat Cycle Classic.