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Reform package should double Australian's rate of donation

18 November, 2008

Australia should set itself a target of doubling our rate of organ donation following the Rudd Government’s commitment to overhauling our organ and tissue donation and transplantation sectors, according to Transplant Australia.

Transplant Australia has congratulated the Government for the significant investment in saving the lives of 1,866 Australians currently waiting for a life-saving transplant.

“Across Australia there are 1,866 Australian families praying and hoping that their loved one will receive a telephone call that will save their life, with the news that an organ has become available,” according to Transplant Australia CEO, Chris Thomas.

“That phone call will be far more likely with this reform package.”

Last year just 198 Australians generously became organ donors. Their decision and that of their families saved the lives of 663 people. This is wonderful news, however the reality is that Australia still lags behind many other countries when it comes to donation.

“For 20 years we have tried to kick-start Australia’s rate of donation without success,” Thomas said. “In fact we stand 17th out of 19 countries listed on the International Registry of Organ Donation and Transplantation.

“To put this into perspective, if we had the rate of the USA we would have 500 donors a year, Belgium 560 donors a year and Spain 680 donors a year.

“We should at least set a target of doubling our rate of donation - providing organs for another 600 patients a year. This would make significant inroads into the waiting lists as we could expect up to 1,200 people transplanted every year.”

Transplant Australia has played a significant role in advising the Federal and State Governments on the reform process - initially through the National Clinical Taskforce on Organ and Tissue Donation and subsequently as the only community representative on the Cognate Committee on Organ and Tissue Donation.

“The entire sector needs recognition for successfully arguing the case for the injection of this significant investment,” Thomas said. “The Cognate Committee, organ donor agencies, ShareLife, and even Janelle Colquhoun from Queensland, who is waiting for a transplant and spoke so eloquently at the 2020 Summit, deserve recognition for the influence they have played.

“Over the past 18 months we have seen the entire sector focused on outcomes and fixing the system of donation. The real work starts with the announcement that a new national organ donation and transplantation authority will be established to implement these reforms.

“Transplant Australia looks forward to working with the authority on the implementation of these reforms to help saves the lives of Australians whose only chance of survival is a transplant.

“The allocation of $67 million to fund dedicated organ donor specialist doctors and $17 million to cover hospital costs associated with donation, will significantly boost potential donations.

“Increased professional education will also improve doctors and nurses understanding of organ and tissue donation and preparedness to approach families about donation.

The coalface clinical staff in intensive care units and emergency wards are probably the one group of people who can most influence donation. It will be a great outcome if we are able to increase their support and knowledge of the benefits of donation.”

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