Deep beneath the complex world of organ and tissue transplantation are the heart-wrenching stories of real people awaiting life-saving organs
Every year more than one hundred thousand patients waiting for organ transplants around the world die, either due to limited organ donation or not being able to access transplant services (According to the International Transplant Network).
In Australia, although rates have been improving over the past few years, the country remains well behind other equally developed nations when it comes to organ transplants.
“Dying to Live”, a documentary film produced in 2018, asks why, amplifying a long-overdue debate. The film presents several stories of people on the organ waiting list, and shows the struggle they and their loved ones go through in order to enjoy some semblance of normalcy in their daily lives –if at all possible.
[NOTE: Due to copyrights, the full film is no longer available to view online.]
In 2004, Allan Turner lost his daughter Zaidee when she was seven years old because of a brain aneurysm. Zaidee’s wish was to donate her organs. Indeed, Zaidee was the first child under the age of 16 in Victoria at the time, to become an organ and tissue donor. When he learned that Australia’s donor registration and completion rates lag behind many other developed countries, Allan decided to devote his life to promoting this cause.
He points out the current state of affairs: 8 out of 10 Australians would agree to donate their organs - but only 36% have recorded this decision on the donor register. If family members of the registrants are not made aware of these wishes, over 50% of intended donations could possibly not materialize. Allan seeks to remedy this situation by exploring various consent policies around the world. In some countries, citizens are automatically considered to be organ donors unless they specifically opt out. Australia, however, is an “opt-in country”.
It is therefore crucial to increase the number of donors, improve transplant services, and facilitate easier access to them. In general, one organ donor can donate up to eight lifesaving organs. But increasing the number of donors slightly is not sufficient. Even when they are a registered donor, a person is usually only able to donate organs when they die at a hospital and are medically supported in intensive care until the transplant occurs. An extraordinary set of circumstances has to come together for that to happen, so the likelihood of registered donors actually proceeding to donation is vanishingly small.
Patients on the waiting list and donors are matched considering different variables that include but are not limited to blood type, tissue type, the urgency of the case, and the logistics of each scenario. This process is stressful for the patients because they don’t know how long the wait will be and there is usually always a shortage on donors.
With heartfelt stories, Dying to Live takes us into the worlds of those awaiting and going through organ transplants, and with penetrating insight explores the policy failures that allow this to happen.
Storyteller airs every Sunday at 1800 GMT. Live stream: https://bit.ly/2LDmffl