Did you know that regardless of your registration status, each family of a potential organ or tissue donor must consent to the donation? Plus, not every donor gets to donate. There are exceptionally strict conditions which must be met to harvest organs. It’s marginally less for human tissue.
In 2013, only 1 per cent of potential candidates who died in hospital actually met the criteria. This left Australia with a mere 391 suitable organ donors for our entire population. With approximately 1500 Aussies queuing for an organ transplant at any given time, these figures indicate we desperately need more donors to save lives. Registration is reported to be rising at around 75 per cent of the population happy to donate, but we still need to do more.
The Australian Government Organ and Tissue Donation Authority, reported that only 69 per cent of registered donors have told their families of their potential donation. We really need that figure to rise. When potential donors became available in 2013, only 51 per cent of their family members knew what loved ones wants. Of these, the vast majority (94 per cent) of the families agreed to the donation. When the decision was left to family without knowing, the figure dropped substantially to 60 per cent.
Enough with the stats right? It’s enough to make your head spin. What these figures indicate is that it’s imperative for families to talk about organ donation. We often talk about a whole heap of other crap, like what Aunty Joan did at the last family party, but important stuff like this often gets avoided. In reality, if your family doesn’t know what you want, there is a significant chance they will decline the donation and your opportunity to save up to 10 lives will be sadly lost.
Lucky for us, Australia is a world leader in successful transplants. It’s not just about recruiting donors either. National, state and territory government’s have initiated ‘A World’s Best Practice Approach to Organ and Tissue Donation for Transplantation’ reform. The aim is to increase community engagement, awareness and registration rates, plus improve transplant success through stringent selection criteria and vital funding for medical professionals, post-donor care and facilities.
The federal government has allocated additional funds to secure dedicated specialists, like surgeons, nurses, hospital based transplant specialists and support service for both recipients and donor families. Donor families receive support regardless of their decision to donate or not. It will be a particularly difficult time and significant research has gone into providing the best outcome for both the donor family and individual organ recipients.
After a transplant, recipients receive assistance while they undergo 3 or more months of intensive recovery. For this time, recipients need consistent support as a mass of medications are introduced, including poisonous anti-rejection drugs. Recipients may experience potentially life-threatening side effects from medications and therefore potential recipients without 24/7 support for this period are ineligible for a transplant.
This may seem harsh, but the success of the transplant depends on the recovery period. With such a low availability of donors, specialists want to ensure only individuals with the best chance of survival receive these valuable organs. They are aware they may not be able to save everyone’s life so they must base their decision on these types of variables. It’s the ultimate gift of life and no-one wants it wasted.
Lastly, if you do decide to donate, be aware that your organs will be harvested with the utmost care and professionalism and your family will be thoroughly supported. If you’d like to know more about recipients of organ donors, we have an upcoming article, A day in the life of an organ transplant recipient. I’m blessed to have a family member who has recently an organ transplant and fully comprehend the precious gift which has been received.
It is a decision which changes far more than an individuals life and impacts everyone they associate with, including the wider community. Who knows, one day it might be you on the waiting list and someone’s donation just might save your life. Surely that’s worthy of a 5 minute family conversation?
If you want more information on organ donation, head to http://www.donatelife.gov.au/
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