As Donate Life Week comes to an end, it's time to reconsider the 'opt-in' organ donation system. Image: Flickr/MagnusD.
As Donate Life Week comes to an end, it's time to reconsider the 'opt-in' organ donation system. Image: Flickr/MagnusD.

OPINION: Out with ‘opt-in’ organ donation

IT'S not a conversation that comes up very often, but it's one that should.

I hadn't really considered registering as an organ donor until earlier this year. Like most people, it's not because I didn't want to, I just hadn't done anything about it yet.

This changed when I went to visit two young men in the Renal Ward for a story. Quite literally attached to their seats for four to five hours every couple of days, they got talking, and found they had a lot in common. Aside from total kidney failure, it turns out they had gone to the same school, had tonnes of mutual friends, and enjoyed the same type of music.

They also shared in the same isolation and experienced the same daily pricks, aches, and exhaustion that only someone with organ failure could understand.

One crucial thing these men made me realise was that tough situations are made better by an end date. The idea that what you are going through is temporary. But someone in their position doesn't have that guarantee.

By the time I met him, one of these young guys had been going through dialysis for two years already. Without a match from a loved one, he's just another name on a growing list waiting for a donor. The problem is only 1% of Australian's have opted in to donate their organs should they pass away.

This seems extremely low considering figures released by OrganMatch show 69% of the Australian population say we should all give organs. So why aren't we?

It seems to me that a common trait us humans share is that we don't tend to jump into action unless we have to. Since you need to sign up to become an organ donor, many people may not be bothered, will continuously delay, or perhaps the thought to do so just hasn't occurred.

This is why we need an 'opt-out' system. If every person is a donor by default, then sheer inaction will not be an issue, and the people who don't want to donate will make the effort to take their names off the list.

At least to me, the opt-in system doesn't make any sense, and making the change could save or better thousands of lives.