End-of-life service drives organ donations in SA

An end-of-life service for bereaved families at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) has been instrumental in South Australia recording the highest organ donation rates in the nation.

Royal Adelaide Hospital’s DonateLife SA service focuses on providing the highest quality end-of-life care and follow-up to grieving families. Every patient able to donate is given that option at the right time.

The program has received exceptional feedback from families who have experienced the service, and it will soon be offered at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

After Sue Menzel’s husband Peter received end-of-life care at Royal Adelaide Hospital last year, Sue said, “I couldn’t have asked for better people to be involved.

“I am a nurse, but I’ve never lost a husband, so I didn’t know what to do, or how to cope. ICU nurse Stella Macdonald was my rock during Pete’s care and is a credit to the hospital. Mandy Kocher, our DonateLife contact, supported me at a time when I felt most alone. Six weeks after the funeral, everyone had returned to their own lives. At that moment, at the perfect time, Mandy rang me. Seeing that I was struggling, she put me in contact with services to help me get through. She is just a beautiful person.”

Operating across metropolitan Adelaide’s three major health networks, more than 700 families enrolled in the program across 2019 and 2020.

“It will always give me comfort that two people can now see because of my husband’s eyes. Pete lives on, and his death is worthwhile because it gave two people the chance at a different life. That’s how precious organ donation is,” Sue Menzel said.

With Intensive Care Units and Emergency Departments at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Flinders Medical Centre and Lyell McEwin Hospital offering the program, DonateLife is notified around the clock when a patient approaches end-of-life. This ensures organ donation is considered at the correct time-point and families can make an informed decision.

“DonateLife works collaboratively with ICU and ED teams to ensure all bereaved families receive professional and family-centred support, even when donation isn’t possible. The highly skilled team of organ and tissue donation specialists support the family and donation process, and provide education to the community and clinician,” Medical Director DonateLife SA & RAH Consultant Intensivist, Dr Stewart Moodie said.

DonateLife SA encourages all South Australian families to make an informed decision about becoming an organ and tissue donor. It is vital to discuss and know each other’s wishes, and ultimately, to register those decisions on the Australian Organ Donor Register. Additionally, DonateLife SA staff can offer informed advice and answer questions about organ and tissue donation.

“In 2020, there were 463 donors nationally and 46 in South Australia. Per population that was the highest in Australia – equivalent to the 5th highest in the world,” Dr Moodie said.

More information is available at https://donatelife.gov.au/about-us/contact-us