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Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Page: 8537


Mrs HULL (12:04 PM) —I rise in the chamber today to speak in support of the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority Bill 2008. I commence my presentation by paying tribute to a young lady who came from the Riverina. Tina Elliott was a wonderful young girl. She was a resident of Griffith in my electorate and her life was tragically cut short in 2006 at the very tender age of 20. Tina had touched so many people in her life and she was nominated for the Australia Day Young Citizen of the Year Award at the 2004 Australia Day Awards ceremony for her efforts in helping in the community with various organisations and ventures, including Meals on Wheels and being a member of the Creative Riverina Youth Team.

Tina was an extraordinary young woman who felt that she would make a difference in people’s lives by the actions that she took every single day, and she made every day a winner. Even after Tina passed away, she managed to make a difference every day in someone’s life. That difference was made by the donation of her organs. Her parents, Ross and Cathie Elliott, and her brother Michael decided to donate her organs and consequently five people’s lives were saved by receiving Tina’s organs. After receiving a call advising the family that the successful transplants of Tina’s double lungs, kidney, pancreas, liver and heart valves had been performed, Tina’s dad, Ross Elliott, was quoted in our local newspaper the Area News as saying, ‘Tina has touched the lives of so many—it puts me at peace to know she is saving lives and is still touching lives in this wonderful way.’

It is wonderful to know that Tina was able to make a difference in so many lives through her wonderful attitude toward life. Continuing to do so in her death with this wonderful gift is extraordinary. It is also wonderful that Tina’s parents and her brother Michael were able to make that decision to donate Tina’s organs at such a difficult and tragic time. I have paid tribute before and I pay great tribute now to Tina’s family and to Tina on the life that she led and the life that she has given other people by way of this very generous gift.

I have raised the issue of organ donation in the House many times. I have done it through my newsletters and I have issued several press releases; I have given information and I have encouraged people to talk to each other about the possibilities of a premature death and what they would wish to be done with their organs. It is a vital discussion that needs to take place in every household amongst everyone from young to old. It is a fact that, because of lifestyle diseases and issues that we confront, we will require more organs than we ever have in the past.

In Australia, a person has a 10 times greater chance of requiring an organ or tissue transplant than they have of becoming a donor. I think that, if people were to understand those statistics, maybe they would have more considered opinions and undertake to have their wishes documented and determined at a very early point in their lives. People may need transplants because they have been born with a structural abnormality of an organ, such as a congenital heart defect, or because they have been born with a disease that causes an organ to fail or they have been unlucky enough to develop a disease or an illness that has caused an organ to fail. For example, diabetes is one of the leading causes of organ failure across the world and requires many of the organs that are donated.

Our kidney transplant survival rates are about 90 per cent in the first year and over 75 per cent after five years. Our patient survival rates for heart and liver transplantation are also 90 per cent in the first year and 85 per cent after five years. Pancreas transplants have the highest survival rate of 94 per cent at one year and 87 per cent at five years.

The organs that we can donate include our kidneys, our heart, our lungs, our liver, our pancreas and some of our tissue, including corneas, heart valves and skin and bone. The difference that we can make in the lives of people who wait every day for a terrible fate to befall them is just extraordinary. Sometimes they can be the recipient of a call to say, ‘We can prep you now and we can deliver you some life-saving organs,’ because somebody has said, ‘I will be an organ donor.’

If I were to emphasise anything in organ donation and tissue donation legislation, rules and criteria, I would raise the issue of the way in which family members and those who make the decision to donate organs are carried through the process—the way in which they are considered at the time. The issue of when the body of an organ donor is released to be taken home in order to be buried or to have a service for that organ donor is sometimes muddied. If I were able to make changes to or suggestions about legislation, I would enhance the benefits, the value, the capacity and the support structure that is provided to families who make this decision at that tragic time, to enable them to be kept fully informed of every process and to know when the body will be released back to them so that they can take home their precious loved one.

I have had raised with me in my electorate a significant, disastrous case of a family who agreed to donate their child’s organs. Their child was on life support. They felt that their child was just totally away from their control and that they had no say and no rights at the time as to when they could pick their little girl up and take her home. It was tragic. They felt alienated by the process and it had a disastrous effect on the family. We have to recognise that we need a significant support structure to surround and envelop those people who are involved in this process in order to give them the support and the confidence that they need about their child. It was only just raised—and it will be raised, I am sure, time and time again during this debate by, probably, people in the opposition—that there are issues surrounding the issuing of death certificates. It is those areas that I am most concerned about. When does the death certificate get issued? How does that then impact on the feelings of the family in the future when they look back on this gift of life that they were part of delivering in tragic circumstances?

This is a fantastic bill; it is something about which we need to hold our heads high. In Australia we are world leaders in clinical outcomes for transplant patients, and there have been over 30,000 Australians who have benefited since transplantation first became a standard treatment offered. We have led the way and we continue to lead the way, and I congratulate the government again for raising and profiling this issue once again for the people of Australia. But I do urge that consideration be given to ensuring that the structure for the support of families and those people who are involved in making the decision to donate a loved one’s organs is there. That structure should give them confidence and involve them as a part of the whole process and not exclude them in such a way that they may later regret having made this decision.

I think that must be the worst possible place to be in and that was how the couple, the parents, who are my constituents felt as a result of their experience. I can only put that into the chamber for thought and consideration, because, whereas the majority of organ donations I am sure take place in a wonderfully comforting and supportive environment, if there is just one family out there who harbour regret, who harbour pain and anguish and who have no peace of mind as to what actually did constitute their daughter’s death, then that is sad. We should ensure that that never takes place in anybody’s family or for any person who has to make this difficult and courageous decision. I stand here today welcoming this bill, encouraging people to talk to their families about organ and tissue donation and encouraging our Australian people to remember those who are waiting desperately every day for a chance at life and those who may be given a chance if only we would have this discussion within our families.