Elise Toyer overcame tough competition and broke a 21-year drought to take out Quota’s Student of the Year title at the regional final on Saturday.
The Year 10 student at St Peter’s Anglican College, Broulee, represented Batemans Bay Quota Club after being crowned district Student of the Year in June in a hard-fought contest at the Soldiers Club.
Elise competed in the finals on the weekend at Unanderra and outshone students from high schools across southern NSW, Victoria and the ACT.
Batemans Bay Quota representative, Carolyn Anderson, said Elise’s win marked the first time a local candidate had won the regional competition since 1995.
The club was delighted with Elise’s success.
“Elise was the youngest student to compete and held her own in spite of the older and more experienced students,” she said.
“She wasn’t even born when we had the last win.”
With fierce competition on her hands, Elise impressed judges in both the interview and public speaking components.
Her four-minute prepared speech, titled the Ethics of Organ Transplant Surgery, showcased Elise’s passion for the topic and boosted her to the top of the competition.
“It was quite a bit of a shock (to win), but a happy surprise,” Elise said.
“Everyone spoke quite well … I honestly didn’t expect it.”
Elise first showed interest in the topic of organ transplantation as a child after watching a documentary on the issue.
Her father, who suffers from congenital liver disease, also inspired her speech.
“I’ve always been very aware of the medical side of things, particularly organ transplantation,” she said.
“That’s probably where my interest stemmed from.”
She plans to channel her passions further over the coming years, and hopes to study medicine at university and practise in regional Indigenous communities.
She intends to use the prize money from the win to fund a scout exchange in Denmark at the end of the year.
Elise’s speech: Ethics of Organ Transplant Surgery
When I was younger, I was interested in some certainly different things. At age four, my favourite movie (much to my aunt’s disgust) was Moulin Rouge! And by age 11, I became really interested in transplant surgery.
Transplant surgery has a very interesting past. The man considered its grandfather, Alexis Carrell, was a brilliant but controversial man himself. He could sew 100 stitches in a square centimentre of paper, he had one blue eye and one brown, and had won a Nobel Prize, but was also a Nazi collaborator, a man who'd once stitched the front legs of a white dog onto a black dog.
Like its founder, transplant surgery is littered with controversies, ethical and moral complications, questions that arguably have no correct answer. Questions like: Which organs are acceptable to transplant? Transplant surgery began with kidneys but now progressed to include livers, hearts, lungs and hands. So where do we draw the line? But there is one ethical question that doesn’t often get asked, I’ll pose it to you now: Regardless of the organ, you’ve got one to transplant and two people who need it. It’s your call. Who is it given to?
It wasn’t till I was even older again that I realised I had a closer link to this discussion than I’d originally thought. My Dad has congenital liver disease and one day will need a liver transplant. But put me in the situation where I have to choose between my Dad and another, despite the possibility that they may be more in need, and I honestly don’t know who I’d choose.
Because, you see, deciding who receives an organ is not as simple as just seeing who’s top of the list. Currently, organ donation is regulated by the Transplantation Society of Australia and New Zealand, a bit of a mouthful so I’ll just call them TSANZ for short. It factors in how well the organs match the person, how long the person has been waiting for a transplant, how urgent the transplant is and whether the organ can be made available to the person in time.
However, how do we ethically and morally determine who is allowed onto the transplant list. Should an alcoholic with cirrhosis or ‘scarring’ of the liver be given the option? Should prisoners convicted of major crimes, like murder or sexual assault, be eligible for transplant surgery?
These are two sets of guidelines issued by TSANZ that are designed to help in situations like these. One is a clinical (mainly medical) guideline, the other is a set of ethical guidelines. These discuss not just the medical process but also the ethical and moral aspect of deciding who’s eligible.
The ethical guidelines actually provide a series of case studies showing examples of how to make a decision in certain situations. One of these case studies is about a woman, we’ll call her Alex, who has alcoholic liver disease and requires a transplant. According to the guidelines, the fact that her liver disease has been mainly caused by alcoholism is not a relevant factor in deciding her eligibility and to do so would be discriminatory and unethical.
But what if the choice had to be made between my father and this woman? Do I feel comfortable with the guidelines that could give the liver to her and not my father?
This is the dilemma that doctors, patients, donors, families and everyone involved in transplant surgery faces. It’s not a question that’s black and white and it’s certainly harder to decide on than what movie four-year-old me was going to watch with my Aunt.