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Australia steps up organ donor campaign

Federal Health Minister, Dr Michael Wooldridge, today launched the new, national Australian Organ Donor Register in an effort to significantly boost the numbers of Australians willing to pledge their intent to donate organs and tissue after their death.

"Despite having one of the highest transplant success rates in the world, Australia has a critical shortage of people willing to donate organs," Dr Wooldridge said today.

"Sadly, of those Australians awaiting organ transplantation, two will die each week and up to 55 per cent of those waiting for a heart, heart-lung or liver transplant will die before a suitable organ becomes available.

"This is an absolute tragedy, especially since surveys tell us that over 90 per cent of Australians have expressed their support for organ donation but only 46 per cent have taken active steps to support their wishes.

"For people with life-threatening or serious illnesses, organ or tissue transplantation may mean a second chance at life, or an improved quality of life," Dr Wooldridge said.

"More than 30,000 Australians have received transplants in the last 60 years and improved survival rates now mean that most recipients of organs or tissue can look forward to many years of productive life.

"We are extremely grateful to those who have already indicated their willingness to be an organ donor. The Australian Organ Donor Register should remove the gap between those who support organ and tissue donation and the actual number of donors in Australia," he said

The Australian Organ Donor Register will record the status of intending donors and will raise the profile of organ donation in Australia.

"The profile of organ donation should improve by firstly enabling families to discuss this issue, and secondly enabling authorised medical personnel to securely access this information to support them in seeking consent from family members," Dr Wooldridge said.

"Having a national register means that when a person dies, authorised medical personnel can quickly refer to the national register to find out if this person is on the donor list.

"Timing is important in organ donations and we hope this national register, which is designed to complement existing organ donation arrangements, will significantly lift the number of people who decide to donate."

Dr Wooldridge said people who wish to record their intent to donate organs should always discuss this with their families and those who are close to them.

"People who place their names on the national register are encouraged to make their intentions known to their family," he said.

The Health Insurance Commission, which is responsible for health programs such as Medicare, the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, will administer the Australian Organ Donor Register.

Registration forms will be available through every Medicare office in Australia, or on the HIC Internet.

For more information ring the visit the HIC website

SOURCED by Australian High Commission, Wellington

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