Thousands benefit from Australian generosity to give a second chance to strangers by organ donation

A 2020 report on organ and tissue donation and transplantation shows that despite the significant impact of COVID-19, around 4,000 Australians benefitted from the gift of organ, eye, and tissue donation from a deceased donor.

The Minister responsible for the Organ and Tissue Authority, Mark Coulton, said the 2020 Australian Donation and Transplantation Activity Report confirms Australian generosity and willingness to give complete strangers a second chance through organ and tissue donation.

“This report shows that even when the chips are down and a global pandemic interrupts the national transplant program, Australian generosity shines through.

- Advertisement -

“Last year, despite the pandemic, some 1,644 Australians’ death provided the gift of life and sight to another Australian,” Minister Coulton said.

“We are very grateful to these Australians and their families for making organ, eye, and tissue donations possible.”

The report shows 1,270 Australian lives were saved through an organ transplant in 2020, due to the generosity of 463 deceased organ donors and their families. The report also shows 2,277 Australians received corneal transplants in 2020 from 1,318 donors.

“A corneal transplant can make a remarkable difference to someone’s quality of life.

“More than 23,500 Australians have thankfully received the gift of sight since the national program began in 2009,” Minister Coulton said.

Minister Coulton said it is important to also recognise the great power of tissue donation.

- Advertisement -

“Whether they gave heart valves to repair genetic defects in young children or skin grafts to help treat infection and trauma, the 290 deceased tissue donors in 2020 made a great difference to many lives.

“Last year, 182 living donors improved the lives of another Australian; predominantly by donating kidneys and in one case, a partial liver.

“Living donors make an incredibly generous sacrifice to improve the life of someone else.

“Organ transplants are not without risk to those who donate, and their act of kindness mustn’t be understated,” Minister Coulton said.

Last year, just 29 kidney transplants took place in Australia from living donors through the Australia and New Zealand Paired Kidney Exchange Program. This figure represents a 42 per cent drop compared to 2019.

Organ and Tissue Authority CEO, Lucinda Barry, said 2020 outcomes were primarily impacted by the program’s suspension due to COVID-19 concerns in early-March, with the program gradually returning in earnest from September.

“The reality is there were 210 fewer kidney transplants across living and deceased transplant programs, mostly due to the impact of transplant program suspensions,” Ms Barry said.

“These suspensions were a responsible reaction to concerns within the health sector for hospital capacity and transplant patient welfare as the global pandemic took hold in Australia.”

Minister Coulton said the report once again demonstrates the need for more Australians to discuss donation with their friends and family and to register as a donor.

“We need all Australians to talk about organ and tissue donation, to understand what they and their loved ones wish, and to register to become a donor at donatelife.gov.au,” Mr Coulton said.

“It takes less than a minute.”

The 2020 Australia Donation and Transplantation Activity Report is available at:  donatelife.gov.au/outcomes.