NEARLY 100 Australians will die this year because of an organ-donor shortage, a leading physician says.
Despite a rise in the donor rate, people die while waiting for a lung, liver or heart.
“We are working hard to close this gap,” said Professor Jeremy Chapman, who is hosting 560 specialists from 42 countries at a conference in Sydney.
Australia was still behind world leaders such as Spain and Croatia, but the consent rate had jumped from 54 per cent in 2010 to 64 per cent in 2013.
“It is a right of Australians to be able to donate organs,” Prof Chapman told AAP on Wednesday, ahead of an International Society for Organ Donation and Procurement conference.
His ultimate aim was for 100 per cent of viable donors to be identified and for 75 per cent of their relatives to agree to donation.
This meant there had to be high levels of information sharing and well-trained people to have difficult conversations with bereaved relatives.
“One of the most important success factors is the skill of the person who asks for consent,” Prof Chapman said.
Australia was heading for its fourth successive increase in donors and recipients, said Yael Cass, the chief executive of the Organ and Tissue Authority.
She said Philadelphia organisation Gift of Life had made a major contribution by teaching Australians how to discuss consent with relatives.
So far, 650 specialists had been trained, said Gift of Life chief executive Howard Nathan, a speaker at the conference.
“Hospital co-operation and appropriately trained staff are crucial,” he said.
“When we started in Philadelphia 20 years ago, less than half of the conversations ended with consent. Now it is two out of three.”
Training specialist Patti Mulvania said: “There is no script for the conversation. Different people need different approaches.
“No matter how horrific the circumstances may seem to us, every family has the right to make an informed choice.
“We want them to be able to look back and say that if they had a chance to make the decision again, they would do the same thing.
“It could be a yes or it could be a no.”
About two per cent of people who died were suitable for donation, she said.
“So if you miss one, you miss a chance to save lives. Every family has to be given the opportunity to make something good out of their tragedy.”