The Politics of Organ Donation: Chasing a Rainbow?

By Megan Alessandrini and Andrea Carr.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper explores the issue of organ and tissue donation and transplantation in Australia, from a historical and comparative perspective, and finally analyses attitudinal data collected in 2006. A recent survey of 1000 Australians revealed that issues surrounding death and dying, and decisions about organ and tissue donation remain areas of great sensitivity with Australians (Alessandrini, 2006). While there is widespread appreciation of the acute need for organs and tissues to be provided for such purposes, and most would expect to have access to transplantation should the need arise, there is resistance at another level to individual agreement to the practice of donation. Recent highly publicised efforts to raise awareness of the demand for organs and to concurrently improve the institutional trust required for people to agree, have resulted in temporary improvement in numbers of registrations on the national organ donor register. Levels quickly drop once the media campaign winds back. The impact of the most recent of these, ‘Zaidee’s Rainbow Foundation’, taking a longer term focus, is as yet not known ( There is a range of perspectives available to examine this issue, but increasingly it is becoming a health policy problem, in a global political environment. In this context how does Australia compare, and why are other comparable OECD countries so much more successful in recruiting potential donors and achieving follow-through? Research has shown that levels of political, social and institutional trust are particularly low in Australia, and declining. There is evidence that this has arisen from increased alienation. Participative policy-making mechanisms to reverse this trend would be likely to address some of the fundamental issues and increase a sense of empowerment and social connection.

Keywords: Transplantation, Organ Donation, Health Policy, Participation, Institutional Trust

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.153-166. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 590.688KB).

Dr. Megan Alessandrini

Lecturer, School of Government, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Dr Megan Alessandrini has been actively researching in the non-profit sector since 1998, before which she was employed in the public sector as a policy analyst. She has also lectured in political activism, public policy, social policy and political theory. Her research interests include # Community sector and public policy # social capital # Management and structure of non-government organisations # Feminist theory / Women's policy # Research and evaluation methodology # Political theory She is currently the chief investigator in an ARC Linkage grant of $215,000: ‘Reading the Social Future of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service’. She is also currently on the research team for a NDLERF grant of $375,000 looking drug diversion implementation policy. In addition she was recently a co-chief investigator in the $45,000 local evaluation of the Tasmanian U-Turn program [Young Recidivist Car Theft Offenders Program]. She has extensive experience of evaluation of program delivery in the non-profit sector. Her PhD research, completed in 2001, utilised comparative method and both empirical and qualitative data. This data was used to construct a typology of non-profit organizations and a market orientation scale. These models were used to explain the relationship between human service organisations and government, at both the institutional level and from the perspective of individual organisations. In addition to this, Dr Alessandrini is a member of the Australian and New Zealand Third Sector Research Inc (ANZTSR). She has presented two papers at the 1998 Biennial Conference, one at the 2000 Biennial Conference of ANZTSR, 2 papers at the 2002 ANZTSR conference in Aukland,one in December 2004 in Brisbane and one in November 2006 in Adelaide. She has also presented refereed papers at the Australasian Political Studies Association [APSA] conferences in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. She has conducted numerous consultancies and contract research projects in the field over the last eight years and written a number of consultancy reports. She has had two refereed articles published in Third Sector Review in 2002 and 2005, one in Webology in 2006, one in the International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences in 2006, and one in Transfusion Medicine Reviews forthcoming, October 2007). She has also co-authored (and written a substantive chapter for)a book Public Policy in the Field (forthcoming).

Andrea Carr

PhD candidate, School of Psychology, University of Tasmania, Tasmania, Australia

Andrea is currently in the second year of her PhD candidature. Her main research interest is cognitive psychophysiology. Andrea also has expertise and active interest in quantitative analysis across science and social science disciplines. Andrea has recently conducted extensive quantitative data analysis for a major project funded by the Australian Research Council looking at blood donation and social capital in Australia. She has also conducted preliminary analysis of data from a national survey of Australian understanding and attitudes to organ donation.


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