First Person Consent

As promised, here is more on organ donation.

Australia has had a record first quarter in 2013 thanks to the decision of the 119 families who agreed to donate their loved ones’ organs.  There were 315 recipients.  If this trend continues, we will see the calendar year achieve more than 470 multi organ donors and 1,260 recipients.  This is a far cry from the trend of about 200 multi organ donors for more than 20 years until Australia’s reform package was introduced in 2008/9.

In 2012, there were 354 multi organ donors with 1,052 recipients.

So, we are well on the way to reforming the sector.  The Australian Organ & Tissue Authority has worked tirelessly on the various areas of reform, viz:

  • We now have a national approach so that patients and their families are treated uniformly across jurisdictions.
  • Staff have been provided to undertake the important work that was previously placed on staff in addition to their clinical load.
  • Funding has been provided to support organ retrieval and care of patients who are deceased but who are to be organ donors.
  • Professional awareness and education is ongoing to ensure that staff know the best way to approach grieving families and to ensure they are appropriately cared for.
  • Funding has also been provided for community education and awareness.
  • There are safe, equitable and transparent transplantation processes now in place and the Allocation Protocols are just one example.
  • The eye and tissue sector is being brought under the aegis of the Organ & Tissue Authority to ensure that it operates under the same criteria and guidelines that the organ sector operates.
  • Other programs are also in place such as the paired kidney exchange.

Australia is well on its way.  However, there is more to be done.  We must not rest on our laurels.   I have been concerned about two key issues:

  1. The fact that people who decide to be organ donors and who tell their loved ones can have their decisions overturned.  In my experience of speaking to individuals and community groups, Australians are incensed that their decisions can be overturned.
  2. The Australian Organ Donor Register is seen as an important component by community in its call to action following deciding to become an organ donor.  However, it is not used as a stepping stone in the donation process.

Chris Thomas, CEO of Transplant Australia, and I have developed a paper on First Person Consent.  It is about honouring the decisions of the organ donor and respecting those decisions.

Read our paper here:  Improving Organ Donation.