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ORGAN DONATION: The increasing need for organ transplants in Australia is outpacing slow growth in donor numbers.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tuesday 22 January 2013

ORGAN DONATION: The increasing need for organ transplants in Australia is outpacing slow growth in donor numbers.

Figures released today show that Australians continue to miss out on life-saving transplants. In 2012 there were just 17 more deceased organ donors than in 2011.
Since 2009, the Australian Organ and Tissue Authority (OTA), with a recurrent annual operating budget of $40 million, has been responsible for transforming the organ and tissue donation sector to meet international leading practice. Yet Australian donation rates remain among the lowest in the developed world.
There has been only a small increase in organ donor numbers in Australia in recent years. This growth is no match for the increasing need in the community and falls well below international best practice.
ShareLife Australia calls on the OTA and Federal Government to address this pressing public health shortcoming and to work to significantly increase access to life-saving organ transplants.
In 2012 there were 354 deceased organ donors and 1052 recipients, compared to 337 donors and 1009 recipients in 2011.
The international comparator – donors per million of population (dpmp) - was 15.1 in 2011 and 15.6 in 2012, falling short of the Authority’s target of 16.3 dpmp. The top eight countries in the world achieve between 25 and 35 dpmp. Australia is ranked 22nd in the developed world.
Widespread community support for organ donation has not translated to high organ donor rates. Only a small percentage of people die in circumstances that can lead to organ donation so each opportunity is very important. Lapses in potential donor identification and low consent rates are two areas that must be the focus in our hospitals, and a nationally coordinated system is key.
Assistant Professor Holly Northam has worked and studied extensively in organ donation as a critical care nurse and donor coordinator. Professor Northam is conducting qualitative research on the experience of Australian families who were required to make an organ donation decision in the last three years. She sees an opportunity for improved care for donor families which has the potential to lead to an increase in consent rates and improve donation results.
“Research reveals the Australian community are generous and want to help others following their deaths. They see organ and tissue donation as lifesaving and transforming. We need to give grieving families of deceased people every opportunity to honour their loved one’s wish to donate. Excellence in end of life care and support is hugely important. The care and comfort of all involved including the potential donor’s family and our health professionals is paramount,”
“A good experience means families can make an informed decision and have no regrets about their decision. A positive experience has long term implications in the community in encouraging a culture which normalises organ donation,” said Professor Northam.
Marvin Weinman, chairman of ShareLife said: “We are encouraging the leaders charged with health care reform in this country to push the envelope and not accept the status quo. Lives are in the balance,”
“Every decision to donate is gratefully honoured. Lives are transformed by the selfless ‘gift of life’. We need to understand the increasing social and economic impact of heart disease, renal failure, diabetes and other conditions that lead to organ failure. These health problems will affect us all indirectly or directly. Despite excellent transplant outcomes in Australia we have one of the lowest donation rates in the developed world,” said Mr Weinman.


1.   Over 90% of Australians support organ donation for transplantation.

2.   Due to a shortage of organs, hundreds of Australians die waiting each year.

3.   A small percentage of people who die each year are eligible to become organ donors.

4.   There were 337 deceased organ donors across the country in 2011 and 354 in 2012, an increase of five per cent. There was a four per cent increase in recipients (1009 in 2011 to 1052 in 2012)

5.   Australia is ranked 22nd in the world in organ donation for transplantation. World-leading countries achieve more than two times the number of donors per capita.

6.   Since 2008 the number of donors per million people each year has increased from 12.1 dpmp to 15.6 in 2012

7.   At any one time there are about 1600 people on transplant waiting lists, but if more donated organs were available many more could benefit from an organ transplant.

8.   Organ transplantation is a life-saving therapy.

9.   The medical and productivity costs to the community of end-stage organ failure are substantial.

10. The longer a recipient waits for a transplant the greater the risk to their health and wellbeing.

11. Between 2009 and 2012 the Organ and Tissue Authority received $151 million in federal funding with ongoing funding of $40 million per annum.

12. In coming years experts predict that the need for organ transplant will increase at a far greater rate than population growth.

Note to editors

ShareLife Australia is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to improving Australians’ access to life-saving organ transplants and working to increase the organ donor rate to levels achieved by the World-leading countries. The ShareLife network includes donor families and transplant recipients, leading transplant surgeons and physicians, community and business leaders and other professionals.

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