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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 17 February 2005 2005) . . Page.. 607 ..

transplant. Clinical guidelines are now being developed to ensure that the register is routinely consulted. These measures will help to increase Australia’s organ and tissue donation and transplantation rates.

The organs and tissues of one donor have the potential to save up to 10 lives, giving the donor’s family the opportunity to give the gift of life to many others. I have a personal story to relate to the Assembly about organ transplant. I am a personal friend of a person who was diagnosed with terminal heart disease a number of years ago. The only prospect this person had of living more than a couple of years was a heart transplant. Following the diagnosis and assessment as being suitable for a heart transplant, the person was flown to Sydney on emergency charter flights on two occasions to be prepared for transplant surgery, only to be told that the donor heart was not suitable and another person was to receive it. As you can imagine, the stress on the patient and their family was immense, as was the letdown when the transplant did not go ahead. On the third occasion, the transplant was successfully performed and for a number of years now the person has been living a relatively normal and productive life. Had it not been for the transplanted heart, this person would no longer be alive.

Transplants began in Australia in 1941 when the first corneal transplants were performed, resulting in the restoration of sight. The first successful kidney transplants took place in 1965. It is now, of course, also possible for donors to provide their organs while they are still living—hopefully not actually having them removed for payment! The largest number of people awaiting organ transplants at any time is those requiring kidneys. Over 30 per cent of kidney transplants carried out in Australia now are as a result of donations from families and friends. Since the initial procedure, some 30,000 people have had their quality of life enhanced and prolonged because of a decision made by one of their fellow Australians to become a transplant donor.

In such a complex matter, as Ms MacDonald has already alluded to, there are, of course, a number of misconceptions surrounding organ and tissue donations. It is important for potential donors to know that their organs and tissues will only be used for transplant purposes and will not be used for research. Research may only be undertaken with explicit written permission of the donor. Age is less of a factor than the donor’s health. Organs have been successfully transplanted from donors aged up to 90. Children as young as 12 may register, although their parents or guardian must also give their consent.

I ask all Canberrans to use the opportunity that organ donor awareness week presents to us to think about the benefits that becoming a registered donor would bring to those in our community whose only prospect for a full and healthy life is to be the recipient of a transplant. Take time this week to discuss this with all your family members and, most importantly, once a decision to become a donor has been made, make your decision known immediately to your family. To those whose family members have been considering the decision to become a donor, please ensure their wishes are respected in death and provide the opportunity for the members of another family to receive the gift of life that these organs and tissues, once donated, may bring.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the ACT organ donation coordinators and the staff of the ACT hospital for their dedication, commitment and professionalism in the work they undertake. I also wish to acknowledge the ACT Organ Donation Awareness Foundation and many others in the community for their support.

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