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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6095

Health Care

Dear Mrs Wicks

Thank you for your correspondence of 26 March 2018 to the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, regarding Petition number: EN0458 - Australia's organ transplant donation rates. This matter has been referred to me as the Minister responsible for organ and tissue donation and transplantation matters.

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 its DonateLife Network, embedded in states and territories is leading to record donation and transplantation rates in Australia.

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 9,000 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.2

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, 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.

Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. Yours sincerely

from the Minister for Aged Care, Minister for Indigenous Health, Mr Wyatt