Mr President, I rise today to speak about DonateLife Week
The death of a loved one is a challenging time for any family. Equally the realisation someone’s life may be cut short due to illness or disease is also challenging. Sadly, this is the daily reality for many in our community, as more than 1,600 Australians live with the harrowing uncertainty of waiting for a life-saving organ or tissue transplant. For these Australians and their networks of family and friends, the fragility and uncertainty of life is tragically clear. Registering as an organ donor is one way we as a community can provide hope to those who are tragically ill now and in the future.
Donate Life Week is an annual event coordinated by the Organ and Tissue Authority and was recently held between Sunday the 26th of July and the 2nd of August. This event is aimed at creating an awareness of the struggles faced by Australians on transplant waitlists and encourages Australians to register on the Australian Organ Donor Register. Registering to be an organ donor has the power to transform the lives of multiple Australians suffering from inherited conditions, illnesses, or accidents.
DonateLife Week is not only about encouraging registration but opening the dialogue about organ and tissue donorship in our community. This is a particularly important conversation for families because, in Australia, your family will always be asked to agree to organ donation. Registering and discussing your decision provides ones family with some certainty in a time of great uncertainty and tremendous grief.
Promoting organ donor registration is not only the responsibility of the Organ and Tissue Authority. I believe that as representatives of South Australia we must seek to better the conditions for members of our community whether they be sick or healthy. In particular, I believe we should investigate ways to recognise organ donors who have saved the lives of others in our State and country. As such I am watching with keen interest the developments in the ACT with regards to recognising organ donors on death certificates. In principle and as an opt in scheme, I believe this effectively recognises such a selfless gift of life, that organ and tissue donors make in our community.
South Australia leads the nation with 70% of our population registered as donors. While we can be proud of that, nationally only one in three people are registered despite the majority of Australians believing it’s important. We must continue to lead the way, and I encourage anyone interested in becoming an organ donor to visit the website donatelife.gov.au. it is equally as important to check that you are registered.
Mr President, many people will have been touched by or know someone who has been touched by organ donation. I would like to share an excerpt written by a dear friend of mine Nicholas Brown who lost his wife, Leanne, just over a year ago. Leanne was a registered organ donor and had discussed her decision with her family.
“When Leanne died last year, we were able to support her decision to donate her organs. The last image Winnie and I have is of Leanne being wheeled through an honour guard of ICU doctors, nurses and medical staff on her way to theatre for retrieval of her lungs, kidneys and liver. Moments earlier she had died surrounded by family and friends. This was the most humbling moment of my life and I remain indebted to the care and professionalism of the Canberra Hospital staff and DonateLife network.
The opportunity to help Leanne add another chapter to her life after losing a long, and silent battle with bipolar disorder has been immensely restorative for our family and my grief. Winnie has just turned two and is now asking where her mum is and if she can see her. Being able to explain that her last act was to save the lives of four other Australians has helped me start what I expect will be a life-long and difficult story.
The daughter of a recipient of one of Leanne’s organs recently wrote to us advising her mother was able to watch her walk down the aisle because of Leanne’s gift of life. This would not have been possible had Leanne not registered her decision many years earlier when she was well.”
Because Nick and Leanne had opened the dialogue within their family, Nick was able to support Leanne’s decision to be an organ donor. Whilst I cannot begin to understand the feelings and emotions Leanne’s family experienced, I know they are grateful they’d had these conversations. It has been comforting to know they made the right decision.
Mr President, there is an old saying; “Be grateful for every second of every day that you get to spend with the people you love. Life is so very precious”. The gift of life through organ and tissue donation is so very precious and must always be nurtured and protected.
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