WHEN THE END LEADS TO A NEW BEGINNING
Surgeons can only retrieve organs and tissues when the donor patient dies. According to the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority Act, death means “irreversible cessation” of all function of the brain or circulation of blood. In other words, blood is no longer flowing to the brain, causing the body’s most complex organ to stop working (brain death); or a person has stopped breathing and their heart has stopped beating (circulatory death). No body part may be removed before the donor’s death is confirmed by two senior doctors who must not be participating in the donation or transplantation surgery. If someone dies in a regional intensive care unit, specialist retrieval teams are flown to the hospital where they operate to remove the organs from deceased patients. The organs are then transported – by jet or helicopter – to the transplant hospitals in NSW, QLD, SA or WA. A donor who was in extremely good health before their death may provide their heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines and pancreas. Doctors may also retrieve heart valves and other heart tissue, bone, skin tissue and parts of the eye. Depending on the number of organs and tissues to be retrieved, a retrieval operation may take up to eight hours. Hearts and lungs must be transplanted into the recipients within six hours. Surgeons have about 12 hours to transplant livers and about 24 hours to place kidneys or tissue such as corneas into their new bodies.