The expensive information campaigns and the concerted efforts of advocates have not worked as well as hoped. In the past five years the Federal Government has spent $200 million trying to lift Australia’s organ donation rate.
The focus has been on encouraging people who have nominated to be donors to discuss it with their families, so when the unthinkable happens relatives are comfortable fulfilling their loved-ones’ wish to give up their organs.
But in 2012, just 17 more Australians donated their organs than the year before. Just 17 more people.
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The best thing about Facebook’s decision to add an “organ donor” status to their pages is that it might help prevent the family veto on the essential process. The worst thing is that it’s not available to Australian users – yet.
By clicking into the Life Event section of their Timeline, Facebook users in the United Kingdom and United States can now alert their family and friends to their decision to donate their organs. Important note: clicking the status option won’t make it legitimate, users still need to register their decision to donate with their own state.
Facebook has high hopes for this tiny change to its page. Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s COO said it is part of using Facebook to “build tools that help people transform the way we all solve worldwide social problems.”
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If people didn’t donate their tissue and organs to others, the following people wouldn’t have contributed nearly as much to the Australia we know: Kevin Rudd, Derryn Hinch, Kerry Packer, Jimmy Little, Fiona Coote…
We’d be a lot poorer for it. But Australia is already a poorer country than it could be. There are plenty of sick people who need organ transplants but can’t get them. Australia has one of the lowest rates of organ donation in the developed world. There are some 1,566 Australians on the waiting list for a transplant right now and every week an Aussie dies waiting for a kidney transplant.
The way to ease this crippling shortage is breathtakingly obvious. When you die, your organs should automatically go to someone who needs them. End of story.
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Derryn Hinch won the Great Organ Gamble, scoring a life-saving liver. Many lose that lottery. Many people die waiting for organs.
The latest statistics, from the Australian & New Zealand Organ Donation Registry, show about 1600 Australians are waiting for organs – 176 for livers. More than 1140 for kidneys, 96 for hearts, 146 for lungs.
Hundreds die waiting. Demand exceeds supply. We can increase supply – by getting more people to sign up for organ donation and to make sure their families are aware of their wishes – but there won’t be enough any time soon.
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For most Australians, it’s hard to imagine being in an intensive care unit waiting room confronted with the prospect of losing a loved one. For those who do find themselves in this situation, it’s a devastating, harrowing time.
Imagine then, what you would say at this terrible juncture in your life if your loved one died and you were asked: “do you know if they wanted to be an organ and tissue donor?” Do you know what your family and friends’ organ and tissue donation wishes are?
During this time of personal tragedy many say they simply don’t know. That’s not unique to the intensive care unit either, it’s reflected across our community. Forty per cent of Australians do not know their family’s donation wishes.
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I’m passionate about organ transplants in Australia and I reckon you should be as well.
Australia has had a terrible history of underperformance when it comes to organ and tissue transplants when compared with most other developed countries.
It has simply been un-Australian. The bottom line is that lives have been lost unnecessarily. Fortunately there are early signs we’re starting to turn that disgraceful underperformance around. But a lot more needs to be done. A lot more. And each and everyone of you has a role to play.
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I’m writing this in the renal unit of the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney’s south. I’m typing with my right hand because I am not allowed to use my left.
The reason? I am on dialysis.
In 1994, in Rwanda, I contracted an illness which was transitory and minor in itself, but which triggered an auto-immune system disease which nearly killed me. In the process it damaged my kidneys – and although they recovered in the short term, the damage was done.
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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.
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Many of us are aware that there’s a desperate shortage of organ donation in Australia.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that thousands have died on waiting lists.
And yet we still have one of the lowest donation rates in the developed world.
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Would you believe it if I told you more Australians know what their loved one’s favourite tipple is, or the song that tops their personal playlist, or what their go-to comfort food is - than whether or not, if the end was nigh, they would choose to be an organ donor?
It sounds slightly flippant when you put it like that but that’s the finding from a new national survey of 3800 Australians conducted on behalf of the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority.
The survey also revealed most Australians believe ending a relationship, talking to an elderly family member about aged care and explaining the birds and the bees to their kids are harder conversations to have with their loved ones than organ and tissue donation.
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Last year my amazing brother, Supercar driver Ashley Cooper, was full of life when he donned his race suit before his V8 race at the Clipsal 500. An amazing man, a beautiful son, a brother, partner, mate and a very devoted Daddy to his two delightful children. My brother went from that moment of being full of life, to being the giver of life.
Ashley died as a result of a high speed collision on the track that day, but was able to give the ultimate gift to six other families, the gift of life.
Ashley was an organ donor and myself and my family know first hand the experience of organ donation and the amazing gift that donating life brings to both recipients and donor families.
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