ACT News


Matt and Mallie Taylor to hold photoshoots for those in need of organ donations

The next serious infection Matt Taylor gets will probably kill him.

Rejected for a lung transplant last month, Mr Taylor will spend the time he has left with his wife Mallie doing what they can to ensure other couples do not have to share a similar story.

As photographers, the pair will criss-cross the country, blogging about and taking pro bono family portraits for people either in their situation or on the 1600-strong waiting list for a life-saving organ donation.

The end goal of their project is to bring about legislative change from the donation regime they believe is keeping the waiting list high.

Suffering from reflux and inhalation issues due to an enlarged oesophagus, a serious infection in April pushed Mr Taylor's lung function down to 9 per cent.

He began the process of applying for a lung transplant, but a meeting with doctors in mid-August revealed the worst: they could not approve a donation.


The strain the breathing and reflux difficulties would put on the donated lungs, Mr Taylor explained, was too great to risk, given the high demand for transplants of the organ.

"They had a moral obligation to give the organs to someone who is going to be able to use them and make the most of them," he said.

The couple believe that, had donation rates been higher, the doctors would have been in a stronger position to give Mr Taylor a chance with a transplant.

A 2014 report found Australia ranked 22nd in the world for organ donations, though it rates highly in rankings of successful transplants.

That year, of the 319 people on the lung transplant waiting list, 166 had transplants, 14 died and 29 were removed.

SIxty-nine per cent of Australians in polls have indicated a willingness to become organ donors, but only 1.8 million had signed a registration form with the Australian Organ Donor Register in June 2015.

Though Mr Taylor has missed out on the chance to extend his life, he and his wife established the "Donate Life for Mattalie" blog and Facebook page to give other people that opportunity in future.

"We want them to be able to say 'yes' to more people; we want to prevent a couple like us in the future from going through what we are right now," Mrs Taylor said.

"Give them a chance at life and love and growing old together ... that's been taken away from us."

Their site allows those interested to sponsor a photography session, which will then be given for free to people in need of an organ donation in their families.

Mrs Taylor said the reasons for taking the family portraits were twofold.

"We capture life and memories," she said.

"These may be the last portraits they have of their family, and it's their last voice for helping others."

By travelling the country and documenting the plight of many people left languishing on waiting lists, Mr and Mrs Taylor want donor registration to change from "opt-in" to "opt-out", as well as removing the requirement that families make the final decision on whether or not to donate.

"If there was a different law in place, if there were more organs available, they may have taken a chance on Matt," Mrs Taylor said.

Donation and transplant advocacy groups remain divided on the merits of opt-out systems, with some worried the system would not work as well without substantial community education.

Such a change would need to be made by the states and territories, but parliamentary inquiries in four states and the Commonwealth reform program decided against implementing the system.

A federal Department of Health-commissioned report into organ and tissue donation reform released earlier this year made no recommendation to change from the opt-in system, but noted the growth in donation rates since 2009.