Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 December 2017


Organ and Tissue Authority

8:19 pm

Photo of Brian BurstonBrian Burston (NSW, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | Hansard source

Tonight, I want to highlight some interesting points raised by the Australian government Organ and Tissue Authority. One organ and tissue donor can transform the lives of 10 or more people. Australia is a world leader for successful transplant outcomes. Around 1,400 people are on the Australian organ transplant waiting list at any one time. The Australian government funds dedicated doctors and nurses in hospitals to work specifically on organ and tissue donations. These positions are a part of the national DonateLife Network, which also includes state medical directors, hospital-based donation specialists, and donor family support coordinators.

The number of organ donors and transplant recipients in 2016 was the highest since national records began. Complementing the significant progress made in the clinical sector, Australia needs more active engagement and awareness within the community to increase Australia's consent rate to organ and tissue donation. The majority of Australians—some 69 per cent—are generally willing to become organ and tissue donors. Only one to two per cent of people die in hospital in the specific circumstances where organ donation is possible. In Australia, the family of every potential donor will be asked to confirm the donation decision of their loved one before donation can proceed. In Australia, approximately 60 per cent of families give consent for organ and tissue donation to proceed. The quality of care for a potential donor at the end of his or her life, and the wishes of their family, is always the foremost consideration of those involved and is never compromised by the potential for organ and tissue donation. In 2016, 503 deceased organ donors and their families gave 1,447 Australians a new chance at life.

In spite of all the blood, sweat and tears that this situation represents, there are still people who, given a chance at life, abuse that chance and might as well slap the donor family in the face. The best-known example I can think of is George Best. For those who don't know, George Best was born on 22 May 1946 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Tellingly, his mother was an alcoholic and died of alcoholism in 1978 aged just 56. George did well at school and excelled at soccer. His first club side was Manchester United, where he made his name as the best soccer player in the world. A highly skilled winger, considered by several pundits to be the greatest dribbler in the history of the sport, Best received plaudits for his playing style, which combined pace, skill, balance, feigns, two-footedness, goalscoring and the ability to get past defenders. Of Best's career and style of play, it was said:

In terms of ability he was the world's best footballer of all time. He could do almost anything—technically, speed, complete mastery of not only the ball but his own body.

George was also a bit of a wag. His quotes have stood the test of time, such as when he said:

In 1969, I gave up women and alcohol—it was the worst 20 minutes of my life.

He is also credited with saying:

I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest, I just squandered.

He also squandered his life. In 2002, George had a liver transplant. Like a lot of drunks, George didn't hide his drinking following his liver transplant, which ignited a lot of outrage. I guess people thought he was wasting a golden opportunity. This was partly because his liver transplant was paid for by the National Health Service—the UK's equivalent of our Medicare. At least he didn't claim to water down his drinks!

According to the Australia and New Zealand Organ Donation Registry, 213 people needed liver transplants in 2011, but only 199 donors were available. To put a sharp point on it, up to 14 people who could have been saved were not. No doubt, in some cases, the liver went to someone who didn't respect the donor's sacrifice or the family's generosity. Some of them had some component of their surgery or post-operative care done on Medicare. Don't be that person. That would make you a low-life.

In 2008, Doujon Zammit went on a holiday in Greece, where he was king hit by a bouncer and went into a coma. He wasn't ever going to come out of the coma. Some of his family members flew to Greece from Australia and, when advised of the situation, agreed to donate his organs. Doujon's heart went to Kosta Gribilas. To cut a long story short, the families were introduced to each other and formed a lifelong bond. That bond was portrayed in a couple of TV programs as one of mutual love and respect. Liz Hayes from 60 Minutes said:

It’s a complicated relationship when you think about it, because Kosta feels incredibly responsible about keeping this heart healthy and he doesn’t want to let down Doujon’s parents.

'Incredibly responsible about keeping his heart healthy' was the comment made. She did not say, 'He can't wait to get on the turps every day to show them he's his own man and doesn't owe anyone anything.' If your loved one tragically lost their life and you agreed to donate their organs, I'm sure you'd want those donated organs to be treated with care and respect. If not, let them go to someone else.

In 2015, 264 livers were transplanted—that is, 264 new chances at life. Sadly, not everyone who needs a donated organ gets one. Many pass away on the waiting list. The message today cannot be clearer: if you've been given the gift of life, be an adult; respect the donor's sacrifice and earn that gift. Fiona Coote was Australia's first heart transplant recipient. In 1986, the surgery was performed by Dr Victor Chang in Sydney. Fiona went on to be an icon of clean living and total responsibility—an example of all decent people who are waiting for some tragedy to happen that will give them another chance at life. Don't be like George Best; be like Fiona Coote.


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