Australia has a world class reputation for successful transplant outcomes, both in terms of survival rates of the recipients and in the number of organs that are able to be transplanted from each donor.
Transplantation has dramatically improved the lives of recipients and enabled them to be active, healthy members of the community. There are significant cost benefits to transplants when compared with the ongoing cost of treatment for people requiring transplants.
When families remember discussing donation, they are more likely to consent to their loved one becoming a donor.
Transplant waiting lists
In Australia, organ transplantation waiting lists are kept for each transplantable organ - heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, intestine and pancreas.
A person is put on a transplant waiting list when they have end-stage organ failure, all other treatments have failed and their medical specialist believes they will benefit from a transplant.
Waiting times depend on the availability of suitable donated organs and the allocation of organs through the transplant waiting lists. While this is usually between six months and four years, it can be even longer.
When a person is put on a transplant waiting list they receive support from a transplant coordinator, who keeps them - and their family - informed of developments and timelines.
When a match is found, the transplant coordinator arranges for any necessary tests or scans, and coordinates the surgical team.
Allocation of organs
Organs are allocated to transplant recipients in a fair, equitable process that takes no account of race, religion, gender, social status, disability or age - unless age is relevant to the organ matching criteria.
Waiting lists are managed by different groups according to the organ involved and the state or territory where the recipient is located.
Australia has strict guidelines about the allocation of organs and tissues. The Transplantation Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) has developed guidelines for organ transplantation, Organ Transplantation from Deceased Donors: Consensus Statement on Eligibility Criteria and Allocation Protocols.
Allocation is a complex process. When an organ (other than kidneys) becomes available for donation, a DonateLife donor coordinator passes the necessary information to transplant units in that state. If there is no suitable recipient, the organ is offered to organ donation transplant units in other states and territories on a roster basis that is designed to promote equity.
Criteria used in considering potential organ transplant recipients include:
- how well the organs match the person
- how long the person has been waiting for a transplant
- how urgent the transplant is
- whether the organ can be made available to the person in time.
Organs such as the heart, lungs, liver and pancreas are matched to recipients by blood group, size compatibility and urgency. Kidneys are matched by blood group and tissue compatibility through the computerised National Organ Matching Service, administered by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.