OUR SAY: Discuss organ donations before it’s too late

IF the prospect of watching a loved one live a restricted and often drastically shortened life because of the lack of a compatible organ donation concerns Australians, we should be prepared to talk about the alternatives to the current donor system.

This week is Donate Life Week, and while our report today highlights some of the successes of the organ donation program at Orange hospital, Australia is falling a long way short of finding the organs needed by people on waiting lists.

Last year there were only 391 deceased donors in the country, despite the fact many Australians nominate as organ donors on their driver’s licence.

At the same time, there were about 1600 people on transplant waiting lists.

The community can dramatically increase the number of potential donors by supporting changes to the current system.

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One of the problems is, many Australians never sit down as a family and have a serious discussion about donating organs. 

It is not the sort of topic which should be raised for the first time when a family member is terminally ill or critically injured. In this situation even the most sensitive approach from a medical professional may only open discussion on a decision which will take time, when time is the one thing an organ collection team does not have.

Another common problem, in families who have discussed the issue, is for the intentions of potential donors to be overridden by family members who cannot come to terms with that decision.

Around the world, different countries deal with the shortage of donor organs in different ways. In some countries, deceased people are automatically assessed for donations unless they have specifically ruled themselves out.

Australians may not want to go that far, but at the very least we need to talk about declaring our intentions and the right of a potential donor to have that intention respected. 

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