Religion not a barrier to organ donation, advocates say

The NSW Organ and Tissue Donation Service says religion is not a barrier to organ donations.

The doctor’s message to Lupus sufferer Samaema Cornford after successive failed chemotherapy and steroid treatments was grim.

“The statement that my doctor made was, 'Well, don’t go home and drown yourself in the bathtub',” the 35-year-old budding musician told SBS World News.

“I remember the long trip home thinking what am I going to tell my friends … to say goodbye frankly.”

The Fijian-born Australian didn’t give up her fight against the disease and after 18 months went on dialysis treatment.

She spent four years undergoing the procedure, before she went on talent show The X Factor to pursue her love of singing and raise awareness about organ donation.

Ms Cornford had been on a transplant waiting list for two years before she received a call that a kidney had become available.

She received the kidney, but after five years, it failed on October 2016. She is now back on the waiting list.

But Ms Cornford stresses the importance of organ donation.

“I see so many people having kidney problems and having to do on dialysis,” she said.

“That breaks my heart.

“Their life matters as well and … we’re just so busy with life that sometimes we forget that there are people suffering in their own neighborhood.”

'No issue' from major religions

With DonateLife Week underway, there is a concerted effort is to increase the number of Australians from ethnically diverse communities registered to donate their body tissue and organs.

Organ donation is a sensitive subject in some culturally and religiously diverse communities, though proponents say barriers have broken down.

However, the NSW Organ and Tissue Donation Service says religion is not a barrier to organ donation.

"We have engaged with all the major religions, and none of them have an issue," Professor Michael O'Leary from the NSW Organ and Tissue Donation Service said.

"That is a myth that stlll is out there in the community and we need to break that down."

The new generations are much more likely to have positive views on organ donation, he added.

One family's full-circle story

Fulvia Nisyrios’s family has seen both sides of the donation story.

In 1990, her father Dom received a life-saving liver, one of the first in Australia.

He’s doing well 27 years later, aged 83.

"He would've died," she said.

"Our lives would've been different ... we wouldn't have had a father in our lives growing up."

But in 2013 her 74-year-old mum was dying after being hit by a car.

Her dad, in an instant, said her organs should be donated.

"I was just so proud of him at that moment because I actually understood that he was just grateful," Ms Nisyrios said.

Twenty-year-old Andrew Vien-Debetaz, who fought off leukaemia as a child and was on dialysis at home for eight years until a life transforming call from his doctor.

"In the exact words 'we have found the perfect match for your kidney' and that very moment I knew exactly what was coming."

All three are now spreading the word about the importance of organ donation.

"It's part of reality and just to be able to have the opportunity to give other people a second chance at life that's what really counts," Mr Vien-Debetaz said.

3 min read
Published 31 July 2017 at 8:59pm
By Rashida Yosufzai, John Hayes Bell