Transplant Australia’s advocacy work to improve organ and tissue donation rates in Australia is gathering momentum following two presentations to state parliament inquiries.
Last week CEO Chris Thomas presented to the Victorian Parliament Legal and Social Issues Committee which is examining increasing registration rates in Victoria. In June Chris, supported by WA State Chair Troy Scudds and donor mum, Rowena Alexander, presented to a Parliamentary inquiry in Western Australia. Both inquiries have arisen because of a concern that donation rates in Australia have slowed following the COVID Pandemic.
Key points in our submissions include –
In the clinical setting:
- There should be 100 per cent routine referral to DonateLife of all planned end of life in the intensive care unit or emergency departments (currently 81 per cent nationally).
- 100% Checking of the Australian Organ Donor Register (AODR) prior to family discussion.
- 100% of the donation conversation with families have a donation nurse specialist involved (currently 76 per cent).
- The Human Tissue Act in each state and territory should also be updated.
In the community setting:
- Return the ‘yes’ option to the state-based driver’s licence systems with the data uploaded to the one national register. We need to focus on doubling registration rates in Australia.
- Specific campaigns to senior school students as they move into the ‘driving’ age, while also building programs to help multi-cultural and Indigenous communities better understand the need.
To emphasise our key points, we focused on data coming out of the UK which has over the past few years adopted an ‘opt-out’ system while also maintaining ‘opt-in’ through its registry.
Between April 2020 and March 2021, the following family consent rates were achieved from these groups of potential donors in the UK:
- Those who had expressly opted out of organ donation – nil per cent
- The ‘protected’ community members who are exempted from automatic opt out – 54.8 per cent
- Those who are eligible to donate under ‘opt-out’ but had not expressly consented (called deemed consent) – 66.7 per cent
- Those who had expressly opted-in (through a registry) – 92.8 per cent
These statistics demonstrate the underlying value of registries and the driver’s licence is clearly the most efficient and effective way to encourage people on a regular basis to support donation.
A system where more than 9 out of 10 families support their loved one’s decision to be a donor (noting families have the final say) is clearly the most logical system to improve donation. These statistics also show that opt-out is not the panacea in solving our challenges in organ donation.
Transplant Australia also emphasizes more needs to be done to encourage families to honour their loved one’s decision – that the norm should be that if someone has taken the time to register their decision to give the gift of life, it should be respected by all concerned. However, we acknowledge the circumstances in which donation occurs, and those families must be supported along the journey. The best solution is for all Australians to register and share their decision now – so that families are fully aware of someone’s decision.
Undoubtedly, the most compelling presentation came from donor mum Rowena Alexander who spoke from the heart about the loss of her daughter and the importance of knowing your loved one’s decision through registration and family conversations.