Saving countless lives, organ transplants are one of the greatest achievements of modern surgery. But this life-enhancing opportunity is not always presented to those in need of a transplant. In 2009 it was estimated that on average two Australians died each week waiting for a transplanti.
In 2011, Australia had the highest annual total of deceased organ donors in our nation's history. This number is calculated to be 14.9 donors per million population (pmp). Yet on an international scale, according to 2007 figures, we are still well behind countries including Spain at 34.4 donors pmp, Belgium at 28 donors pmp and the USA with 26.6 donors pmpii.
Insight to the donation process
Organ donation may not always be possible for someone who is medically suitable and capable to donate. In 2011, 77,000 patients died in hospitals but only 730 were identified as potential donorsiii. This is because timing dictates whether or not a transplant will be successfuliii. Organ donors must have died in a hospital where they can be kept on a ventilator so that their organs can remain functional - artificially - for a limited timeiv.
At 730, the number of potential donors is lowiii. But even then there are other hurdles to overcome for an organ to actually be donated - the family of the deceased needs to give consent before a donation can occur.
Seeing as 43%v of Australians do not know or are not entirely certain of the wishes of their loved ones, making a decision whether or not to go through with the donation process can be tough, and if consent is not given, an organ donation will not be able to proceed. In 2011, 680 families were approached for donation consent but only 390 families consentediii. The actual recorded number of donors for the year was 337iii. And although some organs such as the kidney and liver can be donated when the donor is still alive, there are very strict restrictions on thisvi.
A long wait for a new lease of life
With so few actual donors in a year, Australia's organ transplant waiting list is lengthy. For the year of 2010, there were 1599 people registered on the waiting list. The kidney was the most in demand organ - 1223 patients were waiting for onevii. The waiting list was 167 for livers and 110 for lungsvii.
According to the Australia and New Zealand Organ Registry (ANZOD) registry, males and females of the age of 15 to 64 are the main donors while 58% of those on waiting lists for an organ are between 45 and 64 years. But as calculated by ANZOD, a person would have to wait an average of 4 years before receiving an organ and a wait of up to 7 years is not uncommon either.
Don't risk it
Organ failure and the subsequent need for transplants can happen to anyone, at any age, it is never too early for you to start considering how you can best protect yourself, and your family against illness.
Providing future financial security for your family should not be an after thought, it is important to consider while you are young and healthy, before you have any health scares, and while there are still a range of options available to you.
Health concerns can be a result of poor lifestyle choices, so it is always important for you to know how your lifestyle can affect your health and attempt to minimize your risk of developing these illnesses.
Critical Illness cover can provide a lump sum payment to you following organ failure or major organ transplant, while life insurance can provide a payment to your family in the event that the worst were to happen.
With adequate insurance plans in place to protect your finances, you can rest assured knowing that your family's future is secured.
i DonateLife, 2009, About organ and tissue donation, http://www.nursing.nt.gov.au/sites/default/files/about_organ_tissue_donation-2.pdf
ii ANZOD Registry, Organ donation in Australia: International Comparison, http://www.donatelife.gov.au/Media/docs/Organ%20Donation%20in%20Australia%20-%20International%20Comparison-be8565b0-9e56-41de-a227-1375d7e500fa-0.pdf
iii DonateLife, 2011, Performance Report, http://www.donatelife.gov.au/media/docs/The_Authority/2011_donation_and_transplantation_performance_report.pdf
iv DonateLife, About Donation, http://www.donatelife.gov.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=567&Itemid=160
v DonateLife, Facts & Statistics: Organ, eye, tissue donation facts, http://www.donatelife.gov.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=672&Itemid=159
vi Kidney Health Australia, Organ donation and transplantation - frequently asked questions, http://www.kidney.org.au/ORGANDONATION/OrganDonationFAQ/tabid/645/Default.aspx
vii ANZOD Registry, 2011, 2011 report, http://www.anzdata.org.au/anzod/ANZODReport/2011/ANZOD2011.pdf