Ged Kearney: One minute to register as an organ and tissue donor this DonateLife Week could save lives

I remember about 25 years ago one of the first organ transplant patients I cared for as a nurse was a man with liver disease who was waiting for a liver donation.

I remember the excitement we all felt when they found a mate for him and rushed to tell him and prepare him for the theatre. He looked at me weakly and said, “I’ve always been so lucky.”

I have never forgotten this man.

When he was taken to the hospital, he came in extremely bad condition. He left the hospital changed – he had a full life ahead of him.

Organ donation is an amazingly unique part of the healthcare system to work in. It is characterized by grief and loss in one family and hope and relief in another.

Opening the 11th DonateLife Week in Australia on Sunday, I met two cheeky, smiling little kids who were getting liver transplants. Everyone lives a full and active life.

Their families told me that there are two acts of generosity for which they are grateful every day. That their child’s organ donor signed up for organ donation and that the donor’s family agreed to organ donation on one of the hardest days of their lives.

Even after someone has registered as an organ donor, that “yes” alone can save up to seven lives through transplantation, and many more through eye and tissue donation.

Last year, 421 Australians became organ donors – their generosity and the generosity of their families allowed 1,174 seriously ill people to receive organs. This represents about 56 percent of families who were asked to give their consent to donate and answered “yes”.

This means that we still have opportunities to help even more people. But how do we do it?

The answer is simple – register as an organ and tissue donor and, importantly, let your family know that you want to donate.

We know that if someone is a registered organ and tissue donor and their family knows about it, they agree to donate almost every time.

If someone is not registered and his family does not know his wishes, this number is halved.

While 80 per cent of Australians support donation, only 36 per cent of Australians aged 16 and over are currently registered as organ and tissue donors. This means that there are still about 13 million people who can register and give hope to the 1,750 seriously ill patients on the waiting list.

Last year was a record year for registrations, with around 350,000 people joining the Australian Organ Donor Registry.

Registering as an organ and tissue donor has never been so quick and easy.

It takes just one minute to register online at donatelife.gov.au, or just three taps on the Express Plus Medicare app.

If there’s anything you can do this DonateLife Week, it’s to consider registering as an organ and tissue donor and talking to your family about it.

Ged Kearney is Assistant Secretary of State for Health and Aged Care. DonateLife Week runs from July 24th to 31st. Visit donatelife.gov.au register