John and Shirley Leon of Ballina at the launch of the Book of Life, a book containing stories of organ donation. Shirley donated a kidney to John in July.
John and Shirley Leon of Ballina at the launch of the Book of Life, a book containing stories of organ donation. Shirley donated a kidney to John in July. Cathy Adams

Perfect match in every sense

EAST Ballina couple John and Shirley Leon are compatible enough to have been married for 49 years.

But the best news was their kidneys were compatible too.

So when John, at 64, had reached what is scarily called "end stage" of kidney disease, meaning he would have to go on a dialysis machine to help his kidneys keep his blood clear of impurities, Shirley offered to donate one of her kidneys to her husband.

Theirs is a story of "living" organ donation, which can only apply to kidneys, because we have two and can spare one.

Hearts, lungs, livers and other vital parts need to be retrieved from someone who has died.

This is a sensitive subject to bring up with relatives of a person who is dying, but it's an opportunity for that person to give the gift of life to up to 10 other people, said Dr Mike Lindley-Jones, the medical director for organ and tissue donation with the Northern NSW Local Health District.

Dr Lindley-Jones was in Ballina to launch the Book of Life - stories of Australians whose lives have been saved by vital transplants - and to promote discussion about organ transplants.

A discussion paper released yesterday by the NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner calls for public comment about overhauling trans- plant practices to increase flagging donation rates.

Currently drivers can give their consent to organ donation by ticking a box on their driver's licence application form.

But that person's family can overrule that decision and they often do - last year the families of about 50% of potential donors refused permission for their loved one's organs to be used.

The paper also looks at ways to help clinicians talk to families about donation, taking into account cultural needs.

Submissions can be sent to organ@health.nsw.gov.au.

The Book of Life was launched by Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell at the Lismore Library yesterday morning.

 

Poor donors

  • NSW has the lowest donation rate in Australia.
  • 12.4 people per million (ppm) in NSW donated in 2010.
  • In Tasmania, there were 19.7 ppm.
  • In Spain, there were 34 ppm.
  • One organ donor can help up to 10 people, and many more through tissue donation.

Should we:

  • Continue to use drivers' licences to show intent to donate?
  • Allow families to overrule a decision made by their loved one?
  • Assume consent to donate unless people "opt out" deliberately?

 



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