To give the gift of life you’ve got to talk about it
This week is Australian Organ Donor Awareness Week - a time for reflection, decision and discussion. This week, we ask all Australians to learn the facts about organ donation, decide if you want to be donor, and then make sure that your family knows your decision.
Today, more than 1700 Australians are waiting with bags packed for the call that will save their life. Waiting for the call that tells them the organ they desperately need has become available for transplant. Tragically, two of those Australians on average die every week before they get the call.
Australia’s rate of organ donation is low by international standards. In 2009, donations were made by 247 people resulting in 799 life-saving transplants. Although that rate is higher than the average of previous years, it is still clear that we need to do better.
Our rate isn’t relatively low because Australians don’t support organ donation - more than 80% of us do. And it’s not low because we lack a strong community voice - we have an army of committed advocates in our community who’ve been arguing for higher donation rates for years.
Our rates have been low because of fragmented messages and a lack of focussed resources where it matters.
The Rudd Government stepped up to the plate with its Organ Donation Reform Package in 2008. For the first time, an Australian Government is driving and funding a national plan that sees a consistent message across the country. Our reforms are funding 160 medical specialists in 76 hospitals across Australia trained and responsible for ensuring that hospitals are equipped for the task of lifting our donation rates.
The final decision whether donation will proceed is taken by the family or next of kin, even where their loved one has registered as a donor. Research tells us, though, that as many as 50% of Australians don’t know the wishes of their family members in this respect. That’s why this year’s Organ Donation Awareness Week focuses on the need to have that discussion with your family - it ensures your wishes will be met andmakes it easier for your family to make a decision at a painful and difficult time
Discussions about organ donation are difficult; they involve a discussion about death. The circumstances that give rise to organ donation are always deeply tragic, but unavoidable tragedy can lead to other lives being saved. Every time a grieving family agrees to donate the organs of a loved one, the lives of up to ten other Australians can be saved. In this Organ Donor Awareness Week, please give that some thought.
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