Five myths about organ donation in Australia

By Aric Bendorf, University of Sydney

Australia has some of the world’s highest organ transplant success rates, but, for almost two decades, our deceased organ donation rates have been among the lowest in the developed world. In other words, when it comes to organs, we’re no good at finding them but we’re the best in the world at transplanting them.

Recent well-publicised increases in organ donation rates have raised expectations that Australia can sustain meaningful improvement, but the cumulative effect of the increases has moved national performance up from the bottom third of the world’s developed countries and into the bottom half.

There’s still only a very limited supply of organs available for those who desperately need them and each year people die waiting for a life-saving transplant.

For many years now, enormous attention (and funding) has been devoted to finding ways of raising the organ donation rate. Between 1989 and 2008, more than 20 public and government-led initiatives were launched to address issues believed to be its cause. Unfortunately, they’ve proved ineffective and cumulatively resulted not in an increase in donation, but a decline of around 20%.

These failures illustrate misunderstandings about what the country can do to raise its organ donation rates. The idea that Australia is somehow fundamentally different to world leading donor countries, for instance, and incapable of matching their success in organ donation is false. A number of misconceptions lead to such conclusions, and they constitute five myths about organ donation. Continue reading