AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, today urged all Australians to think about organ donation and talk to their families about their desire to donate organs.
Research published in the latest Medical Journal of Australia has revealed that organs for transplant are harvested from only a fraction of the nation's potential donors.
The study authors found that, in many instances, organs are not donated because the would-be donor has failed to properly communicate his or her wishes to next of kin.
"It's important that people talk to their family about their wish to donate organs," Dr Haikerwal said.
"People may wish to make their intentions known by signing up to the Organ Donation Register, but they should talk to their family when they make that decision.
"The family doctor is also an important source of information on organ donation."
In the event that a would-be donor is dying, the family may be asked to decide whether to donate their organs.
"If the family has been well briefed by the donor ahead of time, they are much more likely to fulfil the wish of the donor to give one or more other people a chance at a longer, healthier life," Dr Haikewal said.
Himself a registered organ and tissue donor, Dr Haikerwal said most Australians would happily donate their organs but most just don't get around to making their wishes known - leaving it to distraught relatives to make tough decisions in the event of an accident or other personal tragedy.
"Australia has a high survival rate for transplant recipients, with around 700 Australians benefiting from successful organ transplantation each year," Dr Haikerwal said.
"But we still have one of the lowest organ donation rates in the world.
"There are currently about 1,700 people on the organ transplantation list and it is more than likely 100 of these people will die before receiving a transplant.
"One organ and tissue donor can help more than 10 people through transplants of organs such as heart, kidneys and corneas.
"Organ donation saves lives, restores body function and improves the quality of people's lives - it really is a gift of life."