This week, I got the chance to speak with Marvin Weinman, a former managing director of several of Australia's major corporations.

Marvin's non-profit organization, ShareLife, which emphasizes organ donation, is one of the highlights of our discussion. Join me as we tackle this important initiative.

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:00:05] Hello and welcome to another Healthy Bite. My name is Dr Ron Ehrlich. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I am recording this podcast, the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to their Elders – past, present, and emerging. [00:00:21][15.8]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:00:22] Well, in his week’s episode, we had the rare opportunity of speaking with someone who has been very high in corporate Australia, Marvin Weinman. Now Marvin has been Managing Director of several of Australia’s largest companies, including Boral Building products. Now I’d be surprised if anybody listening to this in Australia didn’t have a product from Boral in their house, be it timber or laminates, or building materials. So he was the Managing Director of Boral Building for many years and he was also a Managing Director of George Weston Foods. Now I didn’t have Marvin on to encourage you to consume some of the “iconic brands.” The George Weston Foods producers, are the foods that you will find predominantly in the centre aisles of the supermarket. And I have at times referred to those centre aisles as the aisles of death. That’s not why I spoke to Marvin. [00:01:28][66.2]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:01:29] I spoke to him because I was interested in how managing directors deal with the corporate environment and how people who are as senior in the corporate world as Marvin, what they do with their lives when they retire, when they move out of these high profile positions with all of their knowledge, all of their organisational skills, what do they do? And Marvin is Chairman of Outcomes Australia, which looks at various projects and rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, looks at what is best practise around the world and brings that best practise to Australia. [00:02:07][38.5]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:02:08] Now one such project that Marvin has undertaken, he’s also Chairman of ShareLife, a not-for-profit organisation that is really focussed on organ donation. Now organ donation is a pretty important issue because well if for any reason you or any of your family or friends became seriously ill, organ failure was a problem. For things like kidneys, lungs, and hearts, you might have a new life, then life would be saved if organs were available. Now it’s an interesting topic because there are two aspects to it. One is the expectation of you, of me, because I’m an organ donor or I thought I was. I am a dual organ donor. Well, many Australians, including myself, are committed to donation. We have really high organ donation registrations, meaning I’ve ticked on my licence, on the Medicare form that I have. I will donate my organs should I die. There is remarkably high funding for organ donation. So you would feel, I would feel rather reassured. So if I had an organ failure and needed a transplant, I will receive one. Australia is saving the lives of most people needing transplants. That’s my expectation. [00:03:39][90.8]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:03:41] Well, there’s another aspect to it and that is the reality. What is the reality? Well, the realisation is that high registration has not led to high donations in Australia. Australia is the load donor per international benchmarks. People are dying unnecessarily. So I think because I and many Australians have been registered as organ donors, I will probably receive one if I need one, or if I die, my organs will go to save someone else’s life. The government has allocated literally hundreds of millions of dollars for this to occur. And you would be right in assuming that if something happened, you’ll be right. Shall be right. [00:04:32][51.4]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:04:33] Well, unfortunately, that is simply not the case. And I am very proudly now part of the ShareLife, not for profit organisation to raise awareness of this. And this is Marvin. You know, Marvin has really taken a lead role in this with a very interesting and diverse group of some wonderful people on the ShareLife Committee. And there’s a quiz which I’m going to give links to which are. Five questions. And those five questions are and I’m not going to give you the answer to them, but I’m going to give you the questions. [00:05:08][34.8]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:05:09] And the first question is: What percentage of people survive more than five years after receiving an organ transplant in Australia? What percentage? Well, I’ll give you a hint. And that is organ transplant is a very successful operation. Now interestingly, in 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recognised the need to transform organ transplantation right rates in Australia and he announced $150 million in funding over a three-and-a-half-year period to enable Australia to lead the world in organ donation. Roll the clock on three years and we’re out there as world leaders. That was the hope. Now the newly established Organ and Tissue Authority (OTA) was legislated to manage the budget and programme delivery and since 2009, the Federal Government has now spent $650 million over the last 13 years and their goal was to increase annual donation rates. [00:05:43][34.4]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:05:43] Now donation rates. So that is an interesting one because although you may have registered as a donor until you die, you’re or you are not officially an organ donor. So the rate at the time that Kevin Rudd allocated those funds were 12 donations per million. Now, 12 donations per million and the best practise around the world is a rather sobering 35 donations per million, or at least it was in 2009. [00:07:00][77.2]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:07:02] Now, my next question to you would be, and second question is: Has Australia achieved that target of 35 donors per million of the population? So we have 25 million people. Now I’ll do the maths for you. If we reached a donation rate of 35 donors per million population, we would end up with 875 organ donations per year. It doesn’t seem terribly high, does it? I would have thought it’d be much, much higher than that. But anyway, my question is, have we in Australia, after allocating 650 million dollars reached that level of 875 organ donations a year? Second question, that was. Now a little bit of background here. As I said, Australia has a population of 25.9 million. That’s as of 2022 census. And of those 25 million people, eight and a half million have registered on the Australian Organ Donation Register to donate their organs. So a third of the population, a third, a third of the population, Australia’s population of 25 million have registered as organ donors. So that’s really fantastic. [00:08:27][85.4]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:08:30] Here’s a sobering statistic. Each year from that population of 25 million, about 167,000 people die in Australia every year from various causes. Heart disease is the number one killer, cancer number two, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, car accidents, and. [00:08:51][21.0]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:08:51] Suicides. Yes, COVID plays a role, too, but 167,000 people die in Australia every year. Year on year, it’s around that figure. It’s been around that figure for many years. Now, if you think that a third of the Australian population has registered as organ donors, you would assume that of the 167,000 that died, a third of those would be organ donors, which would amount to about 55,000 potential organ donors per year. Okay, so you’re still with me on the maths, a third of Australia’s population are organ donors. A third of the people who die would be potential organ donors. So around 50 to 55000 potential donors per year in Australia. [00:09:43][52.4]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:09:45] My third question to you is and I’ll have the link so you can fill this out because we really, in ShareLife, want you to fill this out. We need to know what the Australian population knows, and how many people donated their organs following their deaths in Australia in 2021. What is your estimate? How many of those, let’s say 50,000 organ donors who tick the box like you and me have it like I did, how many organs were donated from those 55,000 potential donors? That’s question number three. [00:10:27][42.3]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:10:28] Question number four. Now, here’s an interesting statistic about kidney donations, for example. Now, there are approximately 14 and a half thousand people with kidney failure requiring dialysis in Australia as of 2020. Now that’s 14 and a half thousand people requiring kidney dialysis. Now that is being hooked up to a kidney dialysis machine probably three times a week for several hours a day. I mean, it’s a huge impact on a person’s life. It’s a huge impact on their life and cost to the community. Each person costs $85,000 a year to be on that dialysis machine. So that means every year, $120 million is spent on 14 and a half thousand people getting dialysis. So now it’s important to know not everybody is healthy enough to have a kidney donation. So of those 14 and a half thousand, not everyone is healthy enough to be able to get a kidney transplant. But 35% of people or 4800 people on dialysis are healthy enough. How many of those people do you think are on the kidney transplant waiting list? So 4800 of the 14 and a half thousand people on kidney dialysis are healthy enough to have a transplant. How many people are on that kidney transplant waiting list? That’s question four. [00:12:16][107.9]

[00:12:16] Question five. Countries that top the International League Table have consistent family consent rates of approximately 85%. What are Australia’s family consent rates? Now, this is an important topic because even though I have ticked this box, I’ve had a conversation with my family to make it clear that that is my wish. So, you know, this is a very emotive time if people are hanging by a thread or being on a life support system and the decision is to switch it off or to keep them on a life support system long enough to organise an organ transplant. These are really emotional times for families and very difficult times to be making decisions like this. So I do think it’s a discussion which is a difficult one to have. But it may save your family’s life. It may save your life. It may save someone else’s life. But it’s important to have that conversation so that family consent rates can be as high as 85%. And the last question here is: What is Australia’s consent rate? [00:13:27][70.7]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:13:28] So a lot of people have donated or ticked the box that they will be donating their organs. A lot of money has been spent to ensure that that will happen, but sadly the facts tell a different story and that is what ShareLife is all about. I’m very proud to be associated with it and to try to make Australia a leader in the world in this very important area. We’re going to have links to that questionnaire on the show notes. So please, I encourage you to spend just two or 3 minutes and fill that out because this is important. We need to get this message to the government and to organisations and find out how we can make best practise happen. [00:14:16][48.0]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:14:17] And I thank Marvin Weinman and Outcomes Australia. I’m proud to be part of the ShareLife team and I hope we can make a difference. I hope this finds you well. Until next time. This is Dr Ron Ehrlich. Be well. [00:14:29][12.6]

Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:14:29] This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. This content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions. [00:14:29][0.0]