ORGAN DONATION - OPT-OUT SYSTEM
Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston ) - This is a difficult issue. I appreciate how few people can donate, dependent on their death, which makes this motion even more important. I note the previous 2008 Legislative Council select committee report and its comprehensiveness. However, even with all the recommendations, organ donation numbers are still too low. I also note the national clinical task force on organ and tissue donation report in 2008.
On 2 July 2008, the Australian government announced a total commonwealth funding package of $151.1 million including new funding of $136.4 million over four years for measures to significantly improve Australians' access to lifesaving organ transplants. The funding package aimed to establish Australia as a world leader in best practice organ donations for transplantation through an integrated and comprehensive national reform package. COAG endorsed the reform package on 3 July 2008 and agreed that the commonwealth would lead implementation, in partnership with states and territories.
The Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority began operation on 1 January 2009 and established, for the first time in Australia, a nationally coordinated approach to organ and tissue donation based on world's best practice models. It was believed the new independent authority would provide national leadership to the organ and tissue sector and would drive, implement and monitor reform initiatives and programs. I do not know where I have been but, even with this large investment, I do not recall too much happening with regard to organ and tissue donation over the last few years and it is obvious that such donations have not increased exponentially over the last few years.
I admit that I have not had this discussion with my family and I feel quite remiss about that. While I am on the donor registry, I do not know if any of my children, or my husband, have decided to be organ or tissue donors, although I believe a couple of them are. This is not a topic readily discussed around the dinner table and the time needs to be carefully chosen, as it is a sombre subject. As has been mentioned previously, it is not something many choose to discuss. I can imagine trying to tell my boys or my husband that I want to be an organ donor. They would say, 'Do not talk about that now, you are not going to die for ages', as people do not want to think about it.
I commend the member for Rumney for this motion, as we need to find a way of lifting donations. If this exposure saves one life because someone recognises the need for donation, and if it encourages discussion in the community, then it has been very worthwhile.
I have been speaking to people in the community over the last week to try to gauge their opinion about this issue. Overwhelmingly, those that I spoke to were willing to donate their organs. However, a high percentage of them were not on any register. Some believed they ticked boxes on their driver's licence in the past and that must have taken care of it. Fear, mainly relating to when a machine would be turned off if they were supposedly brain dead, was one of the factors for those that were opposed. No-one wants to let go of life, and no-one wants to let their loved ones go.
Not only would this motion be good for people awaiting a transplant, it would help their families and it would be good for our whole state, as people receiving a successful transplant would be happier, in a better frame of mind, and able to undertake a more normal lifestyle. Everyone deserves that chance if at all possible.
There needs to be more education and donor information and forms available, perhaps in local councils, or post offices. They can be out there anywhere, if they are not there already. I do not know if they are there or not. I have not seen them but if they are not, perhaps they need to be in front of our faces, where we can see them. We need to bring this matter to the forefront of people's minds. Death is inevitable and I am sure, as was mentioned by the member for Pembroke, it could give some measure of comfort to know that a loved one's tissues or organs have been used to help others. But, as has been stated, the time of a person's death is a difficult time for all and possibly many, including medical practitioners, avoid broaching the subject at that time.
When people are grieving and suffering the loss of a loved one, dealing with harvesting of the organs or tissues of their loved one is the last thing they want to do. I have no doubt that down the track, in the fullness of time, many would think differently.
This motion provides an opt out. Plus, of course, no person would automatically be a donor without their family's or next of kin's permission, so there are safeguards in place. It would make more people aware.
Mrs Taylor - That really depends on the system, because you could have a system where the family does not get a say.
Mrs ARMITAGE - I would assume because people can opt out -
Mrs Taylor - As the member for Rumney has said, there are two levels of that. Either the family gets the decision, or not, when it is automatic.
Mrs ARMITAGE - That is something that would be sorted out when it came to it.
Mrs Taylor - We would have to choose.
Mrs ARMITAGE - We would, but I support the intent of the motion. I will support the motion before us because I believe that too many in the community are not really aware - they do not realise how few people can donate and the more that are on the list, the better. There are things we can put in place to take care of any concerns like that.
There have been several committees, state and federal, and numerous reports, but I have yet to see any real improvement in the number of people on the organ and tissue donor list. I will support the member for Rumney's motion.