Organ donations reach highest level in Australia’s history.
More than 1000 lives were saved or significantly improved due to a record number of organ donors in 2011 but Australia still lags behind the world's leading countries for transplants.
A total of 337 Australians who died in 2011 donated their organs, benefiting 1001 people in need of a transplant, figures released this week show.
The number of donors was 28 more than for 2010, which translated into an additional 70 recipients.
Australia and New Zealand Organ Donation Registry (ANZOD) chair Professor Graeme Russ said it was the highest annual total of deceased organ donors and transplant recipients in Australia's history.
But Australia's per capita donor rate remains one of the poorest among developed nations.
Transplant advocacy group ShareLife says Australians in need of an organ transplant will still wait longer than patients in 23 other countries, including Argentina, Uruguay and Puerto Rico.
Parliamentary secretary for health Catherine King said the 2011 figures were encouraging but the international comparisons were sobering.
"We're continuing to see the rate of organ donation in Australia go up, we're now at 14.9 donors per million population and that's up just (from) over 11 from two years ago," she told reporters at Melbourne's Western Hospital.
"(But) there is a long way to go before our rates of organ donation are comparable with other countries."
King said too many Australians still did not feel comfortable discussing the issue with their families.
She also said a lack of understanding about the wishes of family members made it difficult for families to give their consent.
"We want (organ donation) to be a normal part of the conversation people do have around death.
ANZOD and the Organ and Tissue Authority said most states reported increases in their donation rates in 2011, with the most significant rises in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. But the rate fell by 12 per cent in NSW.
Kidney Health Australia chief executive Anne Wilson said she was pleased the rise in the donation rate was sustained month by month across 2011.
But she said it was also crucial to see support for live kidney donation.
"The data ... shows that the trend that has been started in the last couple of years has continued and that is a pleasing outcome for the 1200 Australians who are waiting on a kidney transplant," she said.
AAPDo you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]