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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2353

Mr IRONS (12:42 PM) —I rise to support the motion from the member for Canberra and further to the member for Fremantle for giving a Western Australian perspective on this. I would also like to thank the member for Canberra for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. It was good of the member for Fremantle to mention the state government’s plan to do an inquiry and also the draft but she failed to mention that it is actually the Liberal state government, so I thought I would let that be known. She gave accolades to the Labor Party federally, so I thought I would give the state Liberal government a plug as well.

Members may recall the last time I spoke about organ donation in this place I was in the process of organising a community walk for organ donation awareness around the picturesque Tomato Lake in my electorate of Swan. I organised the event to tie in with Organ Donation Awareness Week. I am pleased to report the event was a success with a good number of people turning up on the day for the walk. The number of people attending reflected the fact that organ donation had been at the forefront of news in Western Australia during the preceding weeks.

A Perth woman and drug addict Claire Murray had sparked debate in the community over her bid for a second liver transplant. This was controversial because Claire had continued to use drugs after receiving her first liver transplant. Her serious condition meant that she needed an urgent transplant to survive. The community was divided, with some arguing that Claire did not deserve another chance, given the shortage of organs in Australia, with others contending that it would be wrong to condemn a young girl to death. On the day of the walk around the lake, some of the organ recipients who attended had mixed views on how this young lady’s position should be treated but most of them saw the organs they had received as a gift and as something to be treasured and valued from the people they had received them from.

Claire’s distressed father was courageous enough to speak to the public on talkback radio about his family’s experience. The Western Australian state government responded to Claire’s situation by offering a $258,000 interest-free loan for Claire and the family to travel to Singapore for a live liver transplant. The family took up this offer, but Claire Murray, sadly, did not survive the surgery.

While this sad tale highlighted some tough ethical questions about organ donation, I think it is fair to say that the issue would have not been so contentious had there not been such a shortage of organ donors in Western Australia. On 4 January 2010, there were still 1,770 people on the national organ donation list, many of them in a life threatening condition. In 2008, only one-third of the demand for solid organ transplants was able to be met.

Western Australia has the lowest rate of donation in the country, so organ donors are desperately needed. That is why so many people took note when last month the Liberal state government of Western Australia commissioned the WA health department to start drawing up proposals for the introduction of an opt-out organ donation system. Opt-out systems automatically assume adult donor consent unless there is advice to the contrary. The alternative is an opt-in system, a version of which all Australians are currently subject to.

As members would be aware, opt-out systems have been used in many countries across the world to solve the problem of low rates of organ donors. In fact, 24 European Union countries use some form of opt-out system. Western Australia’s Minister for Health, Dr Kim Hames, said that legislation would be drafted once a model had been agreed upon, and I, like many others, will be interested to have a look at it when it comes up. Until the legislation is passed, I advise people who wish to be organ donors to register through the Medicare system or through the online organ donor register. I also encourage potential donors to discuss their wishes with their family. Almost half of organ donations do not proceed because the donors do not have this important conversation—but I, for one, have had this conversation with my son.

Once again I congratulate the member for Canberra for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. As the Deputy Chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing, I always take a keen interest in issues such as this, and I am open to working with the member for Canberra on this issue in the future. As I have a little bit of time left, I will mention Simone McMahon, who herself is waiting for a transplant and is the Executive Director of the Organ Donation and Transplant Foundation of WA. Simone held an event recently to name stars after organ donors in Western Australia, and that was a great way to highlight the efforts and commitments of people who have made organ donations. Again, I congratulate the member for Canberra for bringing this issue to the attention of the House.