Opt-out organ donation on table
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.