Health · July 28, 2022

Ged Kearney: If you take a minute to register as an organ and tissue donor, this DonateLife week could save lives

I remember that one of the first organ transplant patients I saw as a nurse about 25 years ago was a man with liver disease who was awaiting liver donation.

I remember the exhilaration we all felt when a match was found for him and we rushed over to tell him and get him ready for the theatre. He looked at me weakly and said, “I’ve always been so lucky.”

I have never forgotten this man.

When he was admitted to the hospital, he arrived incredibly ill. He left the hospital changed – a full life lay ahead of him.

Organ donation is a wonderfully unique part of the healthcare system to work in. It is marked by the heartbreak and loss felt by one family and the hope and relief given to another.

At the start of the 11th DonateLife week in Australia on Sunday, I met two cheeky, smiling little children who had themselves had liver transplants. Everyone lives a full and active life.

Their families told me they are grateful for two acts of generosity every day. That her child’s organ donor had signed up for organ donation and that the donor’s family had said yes – and agreed to the organ donation on one of the hardest days of their lives.

Even after someone has registered as an organ donor, just saying “yes” can save up to seven lives through transplants and many more through eye and tissue donation.

Last year, 421 Australians became organ donors – their generosity and that of their families enabled 1,174 seriously ill people to receive organ transplants. That equates to about 56 percent of families asked to agree to a donation and who said yes.

This shows that we still have room to help even more people. But how do we do that?

The answer is simple – by registering as an organ and tissue donor and, more importantly, letting your family know that you wish to become a donor.

We know that when someone is a registered organ and tissue donor and their family knows this, almost every time they say yes to the donation.

Where someone is not registered and their family does not know what they want, this number is halved.

Although 80 per cent of Australians support donation, only 36 per cent of Australians aged 16 and over are currently registered organ and tissue donors. This means that around 13 million people can still register and give hope to the 1,750 seriously ill people on the waiting list.

Last year was a record year for registrations with around 350,000 people joining Australia’s organ donation registry.

Registering as an organ and tissue donor has never been faster or easier.

It takes just a minute to register online at donatelife.gov.au, or just three taps in your Express Plus Medicare app.

If there is one thing you can do this DonateLife week, please consider registering as an organ and tissue donor and talk to your family about it.

Ged Kearney is Deputy Secretary of State for Health and Elderly Care. DonateLife Week runs from July 24th to 31st. Visit donatelife.gov.au to register