Today the Gift of Life Baton, a unifying symbol for all those touched by organ donation, was presented at the West Australian Parliament, as Perth prepares to host the World Transplant Games in April. Designed in Perth, the Baton was unveiled at Olympic House in Switzerland last year before making its way to Australia.
The presentation occurred at the inaugural event for the new Parliamentary Friends of Organ Donation, where Transplant Australia presented a case for improving organ and tissue donation rates. The event coincides with the release this week of the 2022 Australian Donation and Transplantation Activity Report which showed Australia needed to re-set the conversation if it was to improve organ donor rates.
Mr Chris Thomas, Transplant Australia CEO and World Transplant Games Federation President, said the priority was to:
- Encourage Australians to talk with their families about registering to be an organ donor
- Focus on doubling registration rates with a return to opting in as a donor on drivers licences
- Aim to achieve 75 per cent family consent rate within five years (currently 54 per cent)
The arrival of the World Transplant Games in Perth in April is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to leave a legacy of improved organ donation rates in Western Australia, according to Transplant Australia.
Transplant Australia also presented its Greatest Gift Legacy Project to the Parliament of Western Australia as part of the lead-up to the World Transplant Games. Key to improved organ donation rates in Australia is doubling the number of registered donors. Currently, just over one-third of Australians (38 per cent in WA) are registered.
“There are currently more than 1,800 Australians waiting for a life-saving transplant. Too many patients, including those from Indigenous and diverse backgrounds, miss out on the potential for this life-saving treatment,” Transplant Australia CEO, Chris Thomas, said.
“We need a whole of community response to improving donation rates. The State Government of WA can immediately help by reintroducing the option to sign up for a donor through the drivers licence system. This was the most effective way to encourage Australians to support this important cause.”
Mr Thomas said the World Transplant Games, with more than 1,500 participants from over 50 countries, was a brilliant way to cast a spotlight on the lives of those saved by donation.
“There will be 1,500 tangible reasons in Perth in April – 1,500 people who owe their lives to someone who decided to become a donor or whose family made that decision for them. All of them, whether they are aged five or plus 80, are united in promoting the benefits of donation.”
Transplant Australia’s Greatest Gift Legacy calls on the community, governments, business and the health sector to aim to reach a consent rate of 75 per cent within five years through:
- Returning the ‘yes’ option of the state-based driver’s licence system with the data uploaded to the one national register
- Introducing a national education program for year 10-12 students as they move into driving age
- Modernising the Human Tissue Acts in each State and Territory to maximise donation and ease the burden on potential donor families
- Ensuring donation opportunities are maximised in hospital through routine referral of all deaths, 100 per cent checking of the donation register and making sure every conversation with a potential donor family is carried out by professional and trained staff.
“The year 2018 was a record-breaking year for donation in Australia with 554 donors saving the lives of 1,544 Australians. It represented the hard work of the DonateLife Network and the Organ and Tissue Authority over the past decade in reforming donation across Australia,” Mr Thomas said.
“Unfortunately, donation since then has been severely impacted by the COVID Pandemic. Statistics reveal that last year organ donation rates increased marginally (eight per cent) over 2021 but are still 15 per cent lower than the pre-pandemic rates from 2019.
“Despite significant success the one key area yet to change in donation is the overall family consent rate which fell to 54 per cent in 2022. There is a strong correlation between consent and registration – if a person is registered to be a donor, in 9 out of 10 cases families will support that decision. This drops to 4 out of 10 when there is no knowledge of their wishes.”
Transplant Australia is pleased to be working positively with the WA Minister for Health, The Hon Amber-Jade Sanderson to highlight further opportunities to improve donation in WA.
Transplant Australia will also be taking on a stronger voice to ensure there is greater consistency in waiting list criteria and acceptance in all transplant units around Australia while increasing its help for recipients post-transplant.