Boost in number of organ donations deemed 'encouraging'

A RECORD number of people donated organs in the first three months of this year, figures released by the Australia and New Zealand Organ Donation Registry show.

There was a 55% year-on-year increase for March quarter as 119 people gave others the gift of life.

Almost half of that number took place in March, a record for deceased donations since national records began.

Looking at figures for the past three years Queensland tripled its monthly average in March, while New South Wales saw its double.

It comes a day after the Federal Government announced a two-year pilot of a national Live Organ Donor Leave Scheme, providing up to six weeks paid leave at minimum wage to live organ donors.

Under the scheme live donors would receive $3600 over a six-week.

The average number of donors per month was less than 20 prior to the DonateLife Network being established in 2009.

New Parliamentary Secretary for Health Shayne Neumann said the figures continued a trend of growth in organ donation, describing the rise as "significant".

"Even before the 2013 increase, organ donation levels had already increased by 43% since 2009," Mr Neumann said.

"We are confident that with continued specialist training to build change in donation practice in hospitals; increased public support and awareness of family wishes; and the dedicated work undertaken in the health system, more lives will be transformed through organ donation.

"This outcome is only made possible through the generosity of donors and their families who consent to organ donation in a time of traumatic loss and grief. I pay tribute to these Australians for honouring the wishes of their family member and generously giving life to others."

Transplantation Society of Australia and New Zealand president Peter Macdonald said transplant units across the country were feeling the impact of the increased donation rates.

"Since 2009, heart transplants have increased by 22% and lung transplants have increased by 30% in the same period. The most notable growth is in kidney transplants, increasing by 36%," Prof Macdonald said.

Kidney Health Australia CEO Anne Wilson described the figures as an "encouraging improvement".

Ms Wilson put the record result down to a concerted effort by the sector and the Australian Organ and Tissue Authority, which has implemented a raft of programs and changes in recent years.

She said these initiatives were having a positive impact on organ donation in Australian hospitals, with more consistency in the events around donation translating into higher success rates.

But consent remained an issue in influencing deceased organ donation, she said, particularly when families are unsure of the deceased's wishes.

A recent study showed 86% of Australians would consent to donate their loved one's organs if that was their known wish, but only 56% would do so if the deceased's wishes were unknown.

The increased rates also presented new hope for the 11,000 people currently on dialysis, she said.

"Kidneys are the most required organ for transplantation, with 1080 people currently on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in Australia," Ms Wilson said.

Last year, 606 kidneys were transplanted from deceased donors, an overwhelming majority of the total 843 kidneys transplanted.

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