The data has been released up to September 2012 on organ donation for Australia, by jurisdiction. There were 256 generous families up to 30 September who donated their loved ones’ organs, resulting in a saving or improvement of life for 759 people. A truly phenomenal decision.

Given the backdrop of health reform, it is difficult to see why a couple of jurisdictions have not maintained their donor rates over a five year period. My graph (attached as a pdf but included below as a picture) shows that New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are lagging behind their best performances. Bear in mind that predominantly, those best performances were when the program of reform was just commencing. I’m not sure what’s happening there.

I have surmised previously that these jurisdictions are managing their health budget by reducing the number of organ donors.  All jurisdictions signed onto the reform of the organ donor sector.  The agreement included that the Commonwealth would pay for increase in organ donation, while jurisdictions would pay for what is called downstream issues, viz., the increase in transplants.

There was a large barney about this in September 2011 when the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne suspended its lung transplant program.  There were a range of reasons put forward for this suspension and I was amongst many in the community who loudly protested this.  As I said at the time, if there was an intention to increase organ donation, surely the bean counters in the Victorian Department of Human Services and the Alfred understood there would be an increase in transplantation.  My big concern was that the Alfred is not just for patients in Victoria, but for others across Australia.  Patients who were on that waiting list or hoping to get onto the list were devastated.  They had no hope.  Without hope there is no life.

Eventually, the Victorian Ombudsman conducted an inquiry into this matter and his report was tabled in the Parliament this week.  It shows that:

  • two patients died during the suspension of the program;
  • one set of lungs were declined;
  • some units work outside agreed protocols.

While the clinicians stated that they did not consider that anyone was desperately ill at that time, nevertheless from the bleachers I have concerns about the people who may have benefited from a transplant, their families and the concomitant ability to list new people.

Based on the data to 30 September 2012, we can expect that around 342 families will make the ultimate decision to donate their loved ones’ organs by 31 December 2012; a minor increase on 337 in 2011.



  1. These statistics are nothing but depressing, especially when Australia’s one of the leaders when it comes to successful organ transplant surgery. Hopefully with the help of your post and many others, publicising the current issues surrounding organ donation, these numbers can increase dramatically.

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