Today we released our 2020 Australian Donation and Transplantation Activity Report providing the full picture of Australia’s donation and transplantation outcomes. The report includes data on:
- 2020 at a glance
- deceased organ donation and transplantation
- consent rates
- registration numbers
- living organ donation and transplantation
- eye and tissue donation and transplantation.
Despite the impact of COVID-19 on the donation and transplantation sector, around 4,000 Australians benefitted from the extraordinary gift of life and sight thanks to 1,644 deceased organ, eye and tissue donors and their families in 2020.
Deceased organ donation and transplantation
There were 1270 Australians lives saved through an organ transplant due to the generosity of 463 deceased organ donors and their families in 2020. This represents a 12 per cent decrease in the number of people receiving a transplant and a 16 per cent decrease in the number of donors compared to 2019 due to the impact of COVID-19.
Eye and tissue donation and transplantation
There were 2,277 Australians who received corneal transplants in 2020 from 1,318 donors, and 290 tissue donors. More than 23,500 Australians received the gift of sight since the national program began in 2009. Donating tissue is also incredibly important – heart valves repair genetic defects in young children, and skin grafts can help treat infection and trauma, including burn victims of the White Island volcano tragedy.
Living organ donation and transplantation
The report showed there were 182 living donors, down 24 per cent from 239 donors in 2019, who improved the lives of another Australian by donating a kidney and one partial liver — usually to a relative or close friend who has end stage kidney disease or liver failure. Living donors make an incredibly generous sacrifice to improve the life of someone else.
Last year there were only 29 kidney transplants in Australia from living donors through the Australia and New Zealand Paired Kidney Exchange Program, down 42 per cent from 50 transplants in 2019, as the program was suspended in early-March and began to gradually recommence in Australia only — as international borders remained shut — from September.
Overall there were 210 less kidney transplants across living and deceased transplant programs, mostly due to the impact of transplant program suspensions. There were also concerns about hospitals being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and also to prevent transplant and dialysis patients at high risk being exposed to the virus.
These numbers serve as another reminder of the importance of Australians talking to their family about organ and tissue donation and registering.
Our national consent rate dropped to 58 per cent in 2020 meaning less families said “yes” to donation in the hospital. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 restrictions in hospitals contributed to this decrease.
Even in such challenging circumstances, families were still motivated to donate and help others through donation. We know that more than 70% of Australians support donation. However, only 4 out of 10 families say “yes” to donation when faced with this decision in the hospital when they do not know what their loved-one wanted.
Consent rates are also higher when a donation specialist nurse or doctor is involved in supporting families to make a decision about donation. We are working to ensure that all families have access to accurate information and expert support from a DonateLife nurse at this time.
Many people don’t realise it, but the ability to be an organ donor is quite rare. While more than 7 million Australians are registered to be a donor, only about 1250 Australians a year – about 2 per cent of those who die in hospital – have the opportunity to become an organ donor, although many more can become eye and tissue donors.
While there were over 186,000 new registrations on the Australian Organ Donor Register in 2020, this was a 16 per cent decrease from 2019.
Due to COVID-19 there were significantly fewer community events driving registrations. Now more than ever, we need all Australians to think and talk about organ and tissue donation, understand it and register on the Australian Organ Donor Register – it only takes a minute.