A number of factors are used to measure organ donation.
Number of donors: this is a straight count of the number of organ donors.
- It is important to check if the donor count includes only deceased donors or also includes living donors (i.e. this occurs when a healthy person donates a kidney to someone in need and continues to live with just one kidney. It is also possible for a healthy person to donate part of his/her liver.).
- Deceased donors come from two pathways:
- Brain Dead (BD): irreversible cessation of all brain activity;
- Circulatory Death (CD): irreversible cessation of all circulatory and respiratory function.
Donors Per Million Population (DPMP): this is a globally recognised measure that measures the number of donors per million people. This takes into account the differences in population size by country or state and enables a comparative measure to be made.
- When looking at the number of donors over a period of years it is important to adjust for population growth to see if numbers are growing in real terms. Tracking Donors Per Million Population over time achieves this as the calculation already adjusts for population growth.
- In 2013, the leading countries in the world were Spain at 35.1 DPMP, Croatia at 35.0 DPMP and Malta at 34.0 DPMP. Australia was performing at 16.9 DPMP (16.1 DPMP in 2014) and we were ranked 20th in the world.
Number of transplant recipients: this is measure of the number of people who receive a transplant in a given period.
- When we divide the number of transplant recipients by the number of donors the number of transplants per donor is calculated. As at the end of 2014 the ratio is that for every one donor, 3.0 people receive a transplant.
For people with certain serious or life-threatening illnesses, and those suffering from organ failure, organ or tissue transplantation could mean a second chance at life. Donation is free of charge and anonymous. Improved survival rates now mean that most organ or tissue recipients enjoy many years of high-quality life after their transplant. Some people see donation as a great gift to others. Some see it as a sensible, practical thing to do after death.
The national waiting list is about 1600. However, scientific evidence suggests that 30 to 40 per cent of the 11,000 dialysis patients in Australia could benefit from a kidney transplant. So, with increased rates of organ donation many more than 1600 Australians could benefit from a transplant each year. There is inadequate data on the number of people who could benefit from liver, heart, lung and other transplants.
No. By signing a register you may think that everything will happen automatically. This is not the case. Your family or next of kin will need to also give consent before your organs can be donated. It can be a difficult and painful time for your family and evidence and experience shows that family members are far more likely to agree to the donation if they understand and support your wish to save lives in this way.
We have one of the highest rates of registered potential donors in the world – nearly 6 million people – which is a wonderful reflection of how positive Australians are towards organ and tissue donation. But, there has been minimal correlation between the increasing number of registrations and the number of donors over the last 10 years. The evidence demonstrates that to achieve a high rate of organ donation a group of well trained and empathetic healthcare professionals is needed within the hospitals.
This depends on the individual case. On average a single donor helps 3-4 people but he/she can potentially help many more by donating the following:
- Organs: heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, small bowel and
- Tissue: heart valves, bone, skin, cornea (eye tissue).
You can specify which organs and / or tissues you wish to donate. Donated tissue and organs will not be used for medical research unless explicit written permission is granted.
Anyone can donate organs and tissue—there is no age limit on the donation of some organs and tissue. While your age and medical history will be considered, you shouldn’t assume you are too young, too old, or not healthy enough.
Transplants are now considered a mainstream medical treatment rather than an experimental, extraordinary miracle. The success rate is 90 per cent, based on survival one year after transplant. In Australia, kidney recipients, for example, have lived an extra 40 years or more because of transplantation.
In most cases, a person may only donate organs where they have been declared brain dead in an Intensive Care Unit. The occurrence of brain death, when blood circulation to the brain ceases and the brain stops functioning and dies, is quite different from a coma where there is still brain function – you cannot recover from brain death. Medical tests can clearly distinguish between brain death and coma. Two senior doctors using these appropriate clinical tests independently assess whether a person is brain dead. Organ donation may also be possible after a person’s heart has ceased to adequately support the blood circulation, which is referred to as “cardiac death”, but this is less common.
The doctors caring for you in the Intensive Care Unit work separately from the organ transplantation team and are only concerned with the wellbeing of you and your family members. The whole process of organ donation is underpinned by appropriate law in each state/territory in Australia.
It is important that the organs are retrieved in perfect condition so the organ donor’s body is treated as carefully and respectfully as if the donor were still alive. The removal of organs and tissue is no different from any other surgical operation, and is performed by highly skilled health professionals.
The organs are removed and the wounds are closed using precise and sterile surgical techniques. The donation of organs and tissue does not alter the physical appearance of the body and families are encouraged to see their relative again, nor does it affect funeral arrangements.
All major religions support organ donation. It is encouraged as it saves lives.
Currently there is no absolute certainty that you will get a transplant if you need one.
Any person who is a resident of Australia has equal access to transplantation. However, Australia’s donation rate is relatively low in the Western world. Only about 350-400 people currently become deceased organ donors each year. Many people are on waiting lists to receive new organs and a number will die before they receive a suitable transplant. As our population increases and chronic diseases such as diabetes become more common organ transplants will be in even greater demand.
Yes, definitely. There are three main reasons why Australia’s rate is lower than other developed countries. We do not identify every potential donor within the hospital, we do not always appropriately go about seeking the consent from family members and more families say no in Australia than in some other countries. However, there are steps being taken to improve in these three key areas.
Transplantation is a highly cost effective treatment.
For example, to keep someone with renal failure alive costs an average of approximately $55,000-$80,000 per annum for kidney dialysis where a person can spend about 5 hours, 3 times a week having their blood ‘cleansed’. A kidney transplant costs around $40,000 for the first year and then up to $12,000 per year. Not only is a transplant more cost effective but it also provides a much better quality of life. These costs do not include pensions which no longer need to be paid when, in many cases, the transplant recipient can return to work. There is also the added [not fully costed] value of having a fully functional individual participating in the community.
Current leading practice in organ donation is a whole-of-hospital system to manage the deceased organ donation process. This system has been implemented within hospitals worldwide and has effectively increased the rate of deceased organ donations. Leading practice requires effective delivery of all actions in each step of the deceased organ donation process to achieve the optimal outcome. The process steps are:
1. Donor detection
2. Death declaration
3. Donor and organ viability
4. Donor maintenance
5. Family interview
6. Organ recovery
7. Organ distribution
Visit our organ donation leading practice page for more detail.