Bioethics Blogs

Organ donation boost requires action, not just talk

Even if the potential donor is registered with the Australian Organ Donor Register, the family may still veto donation. Flickr/cabbit

Yesterday marked the beginning of DonateLife Week, in which Australia’s Organ and Tissue Authority ramps up efforts to promote organ and tissue donation with a week-long media blitz and program of public events. The authority was established in 2009 as part of a national reform package designed to boost Australia’s dismal rate of donation – a mere 11.3 donors per million population (dpmp) in that year.

Expectations of DonateLife, the public face of the authority, have been high, in part due to the generous $151 million in funding awarded to implement the reform agenda. The recent report on donation activities for 2012 was disappointing. The rate of deceased donation was 15.6 dpmp – an increase of 5% on 2011, but below the target of 16.3 dpmp.

Arguably, expectations are already set too low. Australia’s performance compares poorly to that of countries like Spain and Croatia, with 2011 rates of 35.3 and 33.6 dpmp respectively.

Why raise awareness?

The theme of DonateLife Week 2013 is “Make your wish count – discover, decide, discuss organ and tissue donation”. Raising awareness and promoting discussion is important because it helps people to make informed decisions about donation. Providing accurate information and dispelling myths are vital elements of donation education programs which lead to increased public support.

Discussion is also critical because the final decision to refuse or approve deceased organ donation lies with the potential donor’s family. If the potential donor is registered with the Australian Organ Donor Register, the family may still veto donation on the grounds that he or she had changed her mind.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.