Or­gan donor opt-out bid

The Sunday Times - - 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 or­gan do­na­tion, MPs are con­sid­er­ing an “optout” ap­proach.

The opt-out pol­icy means peo­ple are pre­sumed to be or­gan donors un­less they of­fi­cially regis­ter to opt out.

The rec­om­men­da­tion comes as con­tro­versy con­tin­ues to rage over the Gov­ern­ment’s shift to make the elec­tronic My Health Record an opt-out sys­tem, and the shift is not backed by the Min­is­ter Ken Wy­att, the Or­gan and Tis­sue Au­thor­ity which 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 to Aus­tralia. And they want it to be manda­tory for doc­tors to re­port their sus­pi­cions if they be­lieve a pa­tient had an il­le­gal or­gan trans­plant over­seas.

A par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into the il­le­gal or­gan trade re­ported this week and called for ma­jor changes to stamp out the or­gan trade and wants Aus­tralia to con­sider switch­ing to an opt-out sys­tem of or­gan do­na­tion.

“Of the top 10 or­gan do­nat­ing coun­tries in the world as of 2016, seven have been ‘opt out’ for a num­ber of years, and two more have adopted an opt-out sys­tem in the past year,” the com­mit­tee notes.

Only one in three of Aus­tralians are reg­is­tered as or­gan donors.

The or­gan do­na­tion rate in Aus­tralia for 2017 was 20.7 do­na­tions per mil­lion peo­ple while Spain has an opt-out sys­tem, and their do­na­tion rate is twice that of Aus­tralia’s.

Mr Wy­att, the MP for Hasluck in Perth, said re­search showed that bet­ter long-term re­sults were achieved through sys­temic ap­proaches that ed­u­cate and in­volve donors, fam­i­lies and hos­pi­tal.

“In 2017, Aus­tralia recorded its high­est rates of de­ceased do­na­tion, with 510 de­ceased or­gan donors and 364 de­ceased tis­sue donors.

This re­sulted in the trans­for­ma­tion of the lives of al­most 9000 Aus­tralians,” he said.

Dr He­len Op­dam, na­tional med­i­cal di­rec­tor of the Aus­tralian Or­gan and Tis­sue Au­thor­ity, told the com­mit­tee an opt-out sys­tem was not a “sil­ver bul­let”, as it could lead to fam­i­lies not dis­cussing or­gan do­na­tion, and sus­pi­cion that peo­ple’s wishes may not be taken into ac­count.

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

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