The data for organ donation in 2011 are now out, showing a record year with 337 multi organ donors and more than 1,000 recipients.  The naysayers have come out in droves, though.

In a Croakey article late last year, I predicted there would be criticism from the small number of wannabes, but I didn’t predict Derryn Hinch’s spray.  After all, he received a life saving liver transplant last year and he is an Ambassador for DonateLife.  Stupidly, I thought he would work out how to support the many volunteers and staff in the sector as well as the families of those 337 Australians who made the selfless decision to donate the organs of their loved ones.  After all, without the transplant, his future was bleak.

But no, Hinch’s criticism on air on 16 January and in the media on 17 January describes the donation rate as a disgrace and nothing to celebrate.

I beg to differ, actually.

Between 1989 and 2008, Australia averaged around 200 multi organ donors each year with a concomitant number of transplants of just over 650.  The Government announced a package of reform in 2008, and that year there were 259 donors.  The following year, as the structure for the new system was being built, there were 247 donors.  In the first full year of reform, 2010, there were 309 donors and this has been improved upon in 2011 to 337 with 1,001 transplants.  In anyone’s language, this is surely good news?

And ShareLife have come out today to again claim that their package of reform isn’t being implemented and also to criticise me as a member of the leadership group.  They can’t help themselves.   In this last calendar year, a number of jurisdictions were up near the 20 donors per million that I had hoped for, viz., the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory.  We are well on the way to achieving world’s best practice.

Australia has embarked upon a reform package that cannot be implemented overnight.  Decisions about life and death are being made, usually in the middle of the night, in a variety of hospital settings across Australia.  The building blocks of a sustainable and resilient system are now in place.

Hinch and the other naysayers (including the spray by ShareLife today) often quote data from Spain and other high achieving countries when criticising Australia’s performance.  What they don’t report is that it took Spain about ten years to improve its performance.  Australia is showing steady improvement at the end of the second full year of reform.

There are Eddie the Experts everywhere and in the organ donor space they now apparently include Hinch and ShareLife .

Again, my concern is the damage these Eddies are doing to the donor families, the volunteers and the hard working clinicians who are really making a difference.

I think it’s time that the critics take a dose of quiet pills and let those who are charged with improving Australia’s organ donor rate get on with it.  Or, perhaps they could volunteer to work as directed with the incredibly dedicated people who are the real experts.

If I knew the names and addresses of the 337 Australians who donated their organs in 2011, I would write a thank you letter to the families of each and every one of them.  And I would also thank the dedicated staff who worked with each and every family to ensure that the wishes of their loved one were respected.

There’s much more to do, but 2011 was a good year for organ donation and transplantation.


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