As organ and tissue donation occur a short time after the pronouncement of death, it is essential that the intentions of the deceased are known to the next of kin. The Transplantation and Anatomy Act 1983 (SA) [s 5] provides that decisions concerning organ and tissue donation, can be made by, in order of priority, the person's:
- spouse or domestic partner
- son or daughter who has attained the age of 18
- brother or sister, who has attained the age of 18.
Consent is sought from the senior available next of kin for organ and tissue donation, therefore specific conditions in a will should be made known to that person.
People considering donating organs or tissues should:
- discuss their wishes with their family
- carry a driver's licence or donor card indicating that they wish to donate their organs in the event of their death.
Currently in South Australia, organs and tissue can be accepted for transplantation or grafting only if death occurs under special circumstances in hospital.
The legal meaning of death under the Death (Definition) Act 1983 (SA) applies to organ and tissue donation. The irreversible cessation of all functions of the brain is commonly called brain death [s 2a]. These patients are maintained in an Intensive Care Unit and depend on a respirator (life support). They are able to donate vascular organs such as kidneys, liver, heart, lungs and pancreas due to the supply of oxygenated blood to the organs. Brain dead patients are also able to donate tissues such as corneas (eyes), bone and skin, which do not deteriorate without a blood supply.
Tissue donation can occur when there is cessation of the circulation of blood [s 2b] and occurs in the operating theatre after the organ donation, or in the mortuary. The disposal of the body is the responsibility of the executor or administrator of the estate. Organ and tissue donation does not delay any funeral arrangements.
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