Opt-out or­gan do­na­tion on ta­ble

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS - SUE DUN­LEVY

AUS­TRALIANS will have to donate their or­gans when they die un­less they opt out, un­der ma­jor changes pro­posed by a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee.

In a bid to stamp out the il­le­gal trade in or­gans, MPs are con­sid­er­ing an “opt-out” ap­proach, which means peo­ple are pre­sumed to be or­gan donors un­less they of­fi­cially reg­is­ter to opt out.

The shift does not have the sup­port of the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for or­gan do­na­tion, Ken Wy­att, the Or­gan and Tis­sue Au­thor­ity that runs the na­tion’s trans­plant pro­gram, or Op­po­si­tion health spokes­woman Cather­ine King.

Fed­eral MPs have also rec­om­mended the law be changed so Aus­tralians who have an il­le­gal or­gan trans­plant over­seas are charged with a crime when they re­turn home. And they want it to be manda­tory for doc­tors to re­port their sus­pi­cions if they be­lieve a pa­tient has had an il­le­gal or­gan trans­plant.

The Sun­day Mail re­vealed in 2016 how 100 des­per­ate Aus­tralians had trav­elled over­seas to buy or­gans on the black mar­ket, pay­ing up to $250,000 for a kid­ney trans­plant.

Donors re­ceived as lit­tle as $800 while doc­tors and mid­dle men got most of the money.

The three-year in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed how a short­age of or­gans in Aus­tralia was driv­ing the trade be­cause some peo­ple had to wait more than eight years for a kid­ney. Re­port­ing this week, a par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into the il­le­gal or­gan trade called for ma­jor changes to stamp it out and for Aus­tralia to con­sider an opt-out sys­tem in which it would be as­sumed peo­ple would donate their or­gans for trans­plant af­ter death.

The com­mit­tee said that of the top 10 or­gan-do­nat­ing coun­tries as of 2016, seven had been “opt-out” for sev­eral years, while two had adopted the sys­tem in the past year.

Last year, the or­gan do­na­tion rate in Aus­tralia, where only one in three peo­ple are reg­is­tered donors, was 20.7 dona­tions for 1 mil­lion peo­ple.

Mr Wy­att said re­search showed bet­ter long-term re­sults were achieved through sys­temic ap­proaches that ed­u­cate and in­volve donors, fam­i­lies and hos­pi­tals.

Aus­tralian Or­gan and Tis­sue Au­thor­ity na­tional med­i­cal direc­tor Dr He­len Op­dam told the com­mit­tee an opt-out sys­tem could lead to fam­i­lies not dis­cussing do­na­tion, and sus­pi­cion that peo­ple’s wishes might not be taken into ac­count.

Ms King said La­bor would con­sider changes to do­na­tion ar­range­ments ahead of the next elec­tion but an opt-out sys­tem was not the an­swer.

“Re­cent re­search has sug­gested that coun­tries us­ing opt-out con­sent still ex­pe­ri­ence or­gan donor short­ages,” Ms King said.

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