By Caroline Song

Sara James, for PBS Newshour, interviewed several individuals in Australia about organ donation. Her published segment, “Can policy changes lead to an increase in organ donations?” showcased the impact of the Australian Organ and Tissue Authority (OTA) on the general public. The interview starts with the story of Damien Blumire, whom at 40 years old is suffering from an inherited form of kidney disease. He has currently been waiting about 10 years for a kidney transplant. His lifestyle is heavily impacted by his nearly nonexistent kidney function. Blumire is forced to severely limit his daily fluid intake. Since his kidneys are unable to remove fluids, increased fluid intake could cause edema and subsequent heart damage.

Under the universal health plan in Australia, Blumire is able to have a dialysis machine in his home. This procedure is equivalent to about $50,000 a year. On average, Blumire spends about 25 hours a week attached to the dialysis machine. The procedure has left large protrusions on his forearm from where the needles enter his bloodstream. Blumire confesses that his biggest wish is to just be able to drink a big glass of water and not fear the consequences.

James goes on to interview Yael Cass, the CEO for the Organ and Tissue Authority. Cass oversees the 151 million dollar national reform package dedicated to increasing awareness all over Australia. In particular, they have implemented public service announcements to educate the general public about organ donation. Australia is seeing the largest increase in organ donations in the past 25 years. The Organ and Tissue Authority has also specialized training of health professionals to facilitate the conversations with families to donate the organs of their loved ones. They have also gone on to create Australia’s first Paired Kidney Exchange.

Finally, the OTA have created a fund for paid leave for living donors. For one such person, Rosemary Wehbe, the paid leave gave her around $600 a week for 6 weeks. Wehbe donated a kidney to her ailing brother and was happy she did not have to use sick pay and that her company was reimbursed by the government. Australia is definitely seeing an improvement to their donation rates from the efforts of the OTA. Blumire was able to receive the gift of life from a dead donor.

Read more here.