May 1, 2013

Joely Mitchell

“Hey Pete, how’s your pancreas goin’?”
“Good thanks Max, but my liver is functioning especially well today!”

We have become a society so focused on the present that the inevitability of death is blatantly ignored. Although the reasoning behind this is rational, why discuss something so personal, intimidating and depressing, when we could discuss happier, more entertaining issues, such as, how totally intense Home and Away was last night? This is, of course, completely understandable, it is only part of human nature to desire happiness. Although consequently, we have become completely desensitised about what is inside us.

What does it take to get an individual curious, enticed and interested in donating their organs? Possibly listening to a friend gloat about being such a decent citizen because they have just signed up to be a donor? Maybe a news story about a little girl who was given a second chance at life thanks to an organ donor? Or what about seeing a family member suffering on a long, gruelling waiting list to get the same opportunity as that little girl? 

In Australia, there can be up to 1,700 people on waiting lists at a time. That means that there are also 1,700 mothers, 1,700 fathers and potentially thousands of brothers and sisters who are vigilantly waiting for a miracle. I don’t use the word, ‘miracle’ lightly, or in an attempt to persuade you with my overly exaggerated terminology.  Quite simply, having a successful organ transplant is, in fact, a miracle.

Queensland boy, Coen Ashton is lucky to be alive thanks to organ donation. He had been on a one year waiting list for a new set of lungs, and finally, his day arrived. As a cystic fibrosis sufferer, Coen was in desperate need of a new pair of lungs. Coen doesn’t know whose lungs are currently inside of him and says that he “most likely never will”, but is forever grateful to be given a “second chance at life”.

There are approximately 850,000 Australians who have signed up to the Australian Organ Donor Registry. This number may sound astonishing, but unfortunately it is under 4% of the Australian population. Here’s another statistic for you- approximately 80% of the population are willing to be organ donors. Let me reiterate that for you, the majority of the population are willing to be donors, but only 4% have actually signed up.

The problem here is the system. Our democratic society abides by the ‘opt-in’ organ donation system (if you choose to be an organ donor, you sign up to the nationally recognised registry) rather than an ‘opt-out’ system (all Australians are born into a society as an organ donor, if you do not want to be a donor, you take your name off the registry).

The opt-in system completely contradicts and neglects the views of the 80% majority who are in favour of organ donation. The system passively prevents individuals from signing up. Why do you think that only 4% of the population are organ donors, despite the majority of people being in favour of the decision? I’ll tell you why- impracticality. In our busy society, nobody has time to go out of their way for a good deed; it is such an undesired effort to fill in a lengthy, invasive form.

One organ donor has the potential to save up to 10 lives and significantly improve the quality of life of many more. Advanced medical technology has allowed not only main organs such as the heart, kidneys, lungs, livers and pancreas to be transplanted, but also heart valves, bone, skin and eye tissue.

Only 1% of the population die under circumstances which allow their organs to be donated. Therefore, just because you are an organ donor, there is no guarantee that you’re organs will actually qualify. I don’t even want to imagine how many people from that 1% bracket are a part of the 4% of donors. These statistics are abysmal.

Additionally, it is essential that you tell your loved ones about your desire, because the ultimate decision will come down to them. Tell them why you think becoming a donor is important so that they completely understand where you are coming from.

Australia is a world leader for successful transplants, the procedure is no different to any other, and is carried out by highly skilled professionals. A series of tests are inducted by two independent, qualified doctors to ensure that the donor is applicable. In 2012, 354 organ donors gave 1,052 people the greatest gift- the gift of life.

It is essential that Australia’s opt-in organ donation system is changed to an opt-out system, so that the 80% of people who are willing to donate are given the opportunity to conveniently do so. We might not be able to make any dramatic changes ourselves, but what we can do is make the selfless decision to donate. You can sign up to the Australian Organ Donor Registry from the age of 16; you can’t be too old, too skinny, too young, too fat, too religious or too scared. You can be hesitant, but ultimately, you know what the right thing to do is.

For further details or to sign up to the registry, go to the Australian Organ Donor Registry website or call 1800 777 203.

– Joely Mitchell

Photos by Amy Steele


, , , , ,


  1. Dawn Says:

    Great article. I hope many people are inspired to go to Coen’s website and sign on to the Australian Organ Donor Register. It saved Coen and you never know, you might be the one that needs saving one day.


Leave a Reply