Organ and Tissue Donation: Many more lives can be saved and donor families can help educate the community.

Following this week’s 4 corners documentary on organ and tissue donation, many Australians now have a greater understanding of the complexity and what’s involved. A newly formed group, Donor Families Australia is calling for greater support for donor families and clearer communication in the community about what the process of donating a loved one’s organs actually entails.

On Tuesday, at a media and community panel on organ and tissue donation organised by SAZCOM for ShareLife Australia, Donor Families Australia and A Gracious Gift, Leanne Campbell told the audience that while she knew her 21 year old son’s wishes the process of donation was far more difficult than people might think. Leanne spoke to AAP about what is involved.

In recent months there has been a positive improvement in organ donor numbers, the expert panel said that with national coordination, and a top-down approach the Organ and Tissue Authority could ensure that major reform happens on a national level. Professor Allan Glanville of St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney is the incoming President of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation. Professor Glanville told Radio National’s PM program: “We need to have, within hospitals, a whole-of-hospital approach from the top of the hospital down, with a system of reporting back to the local board, the area, the Health Minister, and the Prime Minister, so that this is a national performance system. So that wherever you are in Australia, you have the same access to organ transplantation services and the same ability to become an organ donor if you happen to be in that position.”You can listen to the full report here.

Funding was allocated by the Federal Government in 2008 for national reform implementation “to establish Australia as a world-leader in organ donation for transplantation.” Close to $200 million has now been spent since 2009. Australia has improved from 28th in the world to 22nd. The panel acknowledged that improvement is taking place and noted a record 50 deceased organ donors in March 2013 and said that the potential for major reform – to reach world-leading levels – can be realised.

Assistant Professor Holly Northam of Canberra University is an expert in organ and tissue donation and has worked and researched in the sector for many years. She believes that ”We need to … make it easier for Australians so that it is a normal thing to become organ and tissue donors and we all feel good about it.”

Holly spoke to Waleed Aly on Radio National’s Drive program last night about the need for, and impact of,  better communication with donor families.

Will Chapman of A Gracious Gift entered the public spotlight last year when he produced a video raising awareness about organ donation. Will spoke to Maddy Kennard of Channel 7’s Today Tonight before and after his transplant and about his desire for the organ and tissue donation system in Australia to be reformed so many more lives can be saved. Watch here.

On Monday evening prior to the ABC’s 4 Corners program,  Triple J’s Hack current affairs program took an in-depth look at organ and tissue donation. The half-hour show can be heard here.


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