Give the ultimate gift this Christmas

Short on chit-chat around the table this Christmas? Why not raise the issue of organ donation.

That is the message from the organ donation team at John Hunter Hospital, in the NSW Hunter region.

The hospital, which had the highest rate of organ donations in NSW for the past five years, has urged people to use Christmas Day to let their families know their wishes.

The hospital has had 37 deceased patients donate tissue and 16 deceased patients donate organs  so far in 2012.

Between 1989 and 2011, 189 deceased patients donated organs at the hospital.

Tissue donations include corneas, skin, bone, tendons, ligament and heart valves.

Organ donations include heart, lungs, liver, kidney and pancreas.

There are fewer organ donations because organs can only be donated from patients who die in the intensive care unit.

Hunter New England Health donation specialist nurse Nicole Coleman discusses organ donation with the families of deceased patients.

‘‘Generally family members are focused on what their loved one would have wanted,’’ she said.

‘‘If they’re unaware of their wishes, families can find it quite bewildering.

‘‘That’s why it’s so important when your important family members are around the dinner table you have that conversation, because it could lead to many lives being saved.’’

About two in five  families refuse organ donation  because they do not know their loved one’s wishes.

John Hunter Hospital specialises in cornea and kidney transplants, with other Sydney hospitals conducting heart, lung and liver transplants.

The hospital is also home to the Hunter Transplant Research Foundation, which was established to improve outcomes for transplant patients.

The foundation, a subsidiary of Hunter Medical Research Institute, conducts research that ranges from ways to better preserve organs during transplantation to anti-rejection drugs.

Hunter New England Health Transplant Unit director Dr Paul Trevillian said they wanted to improve medications so that patients would only have to take one lot of drugs after a transplant instead of having to take anti-rejection drugs throughout their life.


■ Only one in 100 people die in a way that organ donation is a possibility.

■ In Australia there is about 15 organ donors for every one million people.

■ When donation is possible less than 60 per cent of families give permission for organ donation to proceed.