Part of the reason is that for a person to become an organ donor, their death has to be under specific conditions that will allow them to be a candidate. In Australia, in 2011, for example, there were approximately 146,500 deaths but only 730 of these were identified as potential organ donors.1 However, out of these 730 potential donors only 337 became donors.1
There are around 1600 Australians on the organ transplant wait list and on average people can wait 6 months to 4 years before they receive an organ (but for some the wait is even longer and the longer they wait the more their health deteriorates).2
The interesting thing is the majority of Australians are generally willing to become organ (79%) and tissue (76%) donors.2
So why were there only 337 donors out of 730 potential donors (46%)?
The reason is that despite the fact that a large number of Australians are willing to donate their organs, it is your loved ones who will make the decision on whether or not to donate your organs when you die. And less than 50% of loved ones generally give their consent.
When families are asked about donating their loved ones organs around 43% of Australians do not know or are not sure of the donation wishes of their loved ones.2 Whereas, the majority of Australians (93%) that are aware of their family members' wishes agree and support these wishes.2
So while you might make a decision to donate your organs and even register your decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register, when you die it will be your loved ones who make the decision.
That's why it is so important to talk to your loved ones about organ donation and make sure they know your wishes. It might sound like a morbid subject that you don't want to think about, but it only requires a few minutes to express your wishes. And expressing your wishes will increase your loved ones chance (93%) of choosing to have your organs donated.
So who will get your organs when you die?
1 World News Australia, Five myths about organ donation in Australia, http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1628647/Five-myths-about-organ-donation-in-Australia