A $250 million funding boost by the Federal Government to the nation’s organ donation system has seen a 16 per cent increase in the number of Australians deciding to donate their organs.
Last year organs from 503 people who died were donated to almost 1,500 recipients across the country, according to the figures from the Government’s 2016 Australian Donation and Transplantation Activity Report, which is due to be released next month.
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ken Wyatt said it was clear that people’s generosity combined with the government’s campaign to raise awareness was saving lives.
“The decision to donate is one of the most selfless acts not only for the person receiving a lifesaving transplant but their families, friends and the communities they live in,” Minister Wyatt said
“By registering on the Australian Organ Donor Register you are letting your family know your intentions at an incredibly difficult time.
“I think [the Government’s campaign] has been effective, it’s had people thinking about it.”
Elice Mol, who underwent a lung transplant in 2012, said the new data would provide extra reassurance for people who were on a transplant waiting list.
“People waiting in clinics, who I know are still waiting for transplants, I feel like there is hope for those people,” she said.
“I think the more awareness we can bring to people about donating their organs the better it will be.
“Even myself if I was to need another transplant, I wouldn’t be as scared going through that process.”
Survival rates of recipients also up
The figures also pointed to a 17 per cent increase in the survival rates of organ recipients following their transplant operations, which Ms Mol said was also very encouraging.
“Those days, those hours and the weeks after the transplant operation are the most critical time for somebody who’s undergone such a complicated procedure,” she said.
“I had a few hairy moments myself after my operation.
“I know from my own experience that without those staff, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
Mr Wyatt said the previous year also marked a change in living donation rates “with our second-highest number of living donors since 2010”.
“In 2016, 267 people received a living donation compared with 245 in 2015, an increase of 9 per cent,” he said.
“This included 44 transplants under the Australian Paired Kidney Exchange Program.”
Further changes, improvements needed
But despite the positive results, Mr Wyatt said the Federal Government would re-examine the donor system to find more ways to increase donor consent rates going into 2017.
“Look, we are reviewing our campaign now to look at other ways of reaching into broader Australian society and we will make effective use of the resources that we have.”
He said momentum was growing for Australia’s organ donor register to switch from an “opt-in” system to an “opt-out” one.
Currently, a person has to choose to be a donor or not, and if they sign “yes” on the register then family members still need to give their consent before the organs will be harvested.
Mr Wyatt said there was momentum for talks with states and territories about changing the system so that potential donors can “opt out” of requiring their family’s consent as well.
State and territory governments have historically stayed away from making any legislative changes.
“I am prepared to have that discussion — whether they’re prepared to put in place legislation for an opt-out policy,” Mr Wyatt said.
“These results [increased donor rates] are a testament to what is possible when we work together on a common goal.”
– Dom Vukovic and Chloe Hart