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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8312

Organ and Tissue Donation

Dear Mrs Wicks

Thank you for your correspondence of 27 June 2018 regarding Petition Number: EN0591, opt-out policy for organ and tissue donation for transplantation. I apologise for the delay in responding.

The Australian Government has a strong commitment to increasing the rates of organ donation in Australia to alleviate the suffering of those on the organ transplant waiting list.

Adoption of an 'opt-out model for organ donation, as has been proposed in the petition, is a multi-faceted and ethically complex issue. There has been much discussion about whether such a model could and should be used in Australia.

Experience in other countries shows that systems which compel organ donation, such as 'opt-out' models, are not necessarily the reason for increased donation rates. The current position of 'opt-in' has been informed by research, evidence and discussions with state and territory governments who have responsibility for the legislative framework for organ and tissue donation for transplantation.

Research shows that better long-term results are achieved through systemic approaches that educate and involve donors, families and hospitals. This approach, being implemented in Australia and the work being undertaken by the Organ and Tissue Authority and the DonateLife Network, and embedded in states and territories is leading to record donation and transplantation rates in Australia.

Since the establishment of the Organ and Tissue Authority and implementation of the national reform agenda in 2009, there has been strong growth in donation and transplant outcomes in Australia, with the number of deceased organ donors increasing by 106 per cent and the number of transplant recipients by 75 per cent.

In 2017, Australia recorded its highest rates of deceased donation, with 510 deceased organ donors and 364 deceased tissue donors, resulting in the transformation of almost 1,675 Australian lives.

While these results are encouraging, work continues to be undertaken to raise awareness of the importance of donation and to increase the number of Australians registered as organ and tissue donors.

In 2017, the Government made a number of commitments to ensure the continued growth of Australia's organ and tissue donation and transplantation rates.

As part of the 2017-18 Budget, the Australian Government announced funding to continue the Supporting Living Organ Donors Program (Program). The Program is an important part of the Government's commitment to increasing organ donation rates and supporting living organ donors, ensuring that cost is not a barrier for living organ donors in Australia.

Less than one per cent of people die in hospital in the specific circumstances where organ donation is possible. In that small percentage of instances, the approach in Australia is to involve the donor's family in the decision process.

This approach, based on international best-practice, has been adopted to:

Ensure that the potential donor has not changed their donation decision; and

Obtain a recent medical history to help establish whether the person is medically suitable to be a donor.

What is absolutely clear is that where families are aware of a loved one's intention to donate, and that decision is registered through the Australian Organ Donor Register (AODR), families will agree to proceed with donation in nine out of ten cases. This is why it is important that everyone discusses their donation decisions with their loved ones.

Promotional activities encouraging Australians to register on the AODR are conducted annually through the Organ and Tissue Authority's DonateLife Week. This year DonateLife week ran from 29 July 2018 to 5 August 2018 and saw the Australian Government successfully partner for a second year with the Australian Football League and Football Federation of Australia, to raise awareness of the importance of donation and to increase the number of Australians registered as organ and tissue donors.

Thank you for raising this matter.

Yours sincerely

from the Minister for Indigenous Health, Mr Wyatt