Should we scrap the family veto on organ donation?
The expensive information campaigns and the concerted efforts of advocates have not worked as well as hoped. In the past five years the Federal Government has spent $200 million trying to lift Australia’s organ donation rate.
The focus has been on encouraging people who have nominated to be donors to discuss it with their families, so when the unthinkable happens relatives are comfortable fulfilling their loved-ones’ wish to give up their organs.
But in 2012, just 17 more Australians donated their organs than the year before. Just 17 more people.
According to The Australian:
There were 1052 transplant recipients in 2012 from 354 donors, an increase of four and five per cent, respectively, on 2011, figures released on Tuesday showed. This translated to 15.6 donors per million population (dpmp), a slight increase on 2011 but still shy of the Organ and Tissue Authority’s 16.3 dpmp 2012 target. The authority, established by the federal government in 2009, hopes to lift Australian donor rates up to a maximum of 25 dpmp by 2015.
Of 76,600 people who died in Australian hospitals last year, only 790 were in intensive care. Donations were requested from 710 of those and the families of 410 people consented, resulting in 354 eligible donors.
All the talk this morning has centered on training for specialist hospital staff to better manage families through the process, and even broadening the criteria of eligible donors to hospital-wide deaths, not just those in intensive care.
But what about removing the family’s right to veto their relative’s clearly stated and registered intention to be an organ donor?
It’s a tricky topic, surrounded by a lot of misinformation. Every year when we discuss this topic during Organ Donor Awareness Week I hear people on the radio talking about the fear of relatives being left untreated to die by doctors keen for them to be donors. It’s rubbish.
Their willingness to ignore the clearly stated wishes of their relatives is justified by unfounded fears.
Eleven years and two days ago my brother Frank became an organ donor after suffering a catastrophic brain hemorrhage.
It was a comforting decision for us to make because we knew Frank’s intentions. We had all talked about it years before having to have the conversation in the intensive care waiting room at Prince of Wales.
None of us has ever regretted it.
And this was years before the introduction of the National Organ Donor Registry and the multi-million dollar awareness campaigns.
It might sound drastic, to take the veto power away from grieving relatives. But surely the point of the Organ Donor Registry is to make sure those who wish to donate can make the decision for themselves while they’re still here to make it.
You can sign up to be an organ donor here, but if you do, please tell your family.
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