Motions: Organ Donation

Published Wednesday, August 1, 2018 | Share:

Organ Donation

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (11:30): I move:

That this house—

(a) recognises DonateLife Week from 29 July to 5 August;

(b) recognises the importance of organ donation;

(c) encourages families to discuss the importance of organ donation and to register their decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register;

(d) encourages the state government to support a comprehensive publicity and education program focusing on both the general public and healthcare professionals; and

(e) urges the state government to investigate the effectiveness of opt-out legislation for organ donation.

This week is DonateLife Week across Australia, a time when events are held to increase public awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation. In Adelaide this week, donor families and heart, lung, kidney and cornea recipients joined at the Adelaide Oval roof climb, and there will also be public displays at Flinders Medical Centre, the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the Adelaide Central Market and sporting events.

In South Australia, DonateLife SA coordinates all organ and tissue donor activity across the state and works with hospital, medical and nursing specialists to provide professional donation services and encourage best practice to increase donation rates. In recognition of this important week, I want to tell you about the stories of two Mount Gambier people whose lives are at opposite ends of the organ donation journey: Adam Dixon and Kimberley Telford.

In January 2014, Adam had just finished year 12, was looking forward to starting his engineering degree at Flinders University and was living life as only an 18 year old can. Adam was holidaying with his friends on Kangaroo Island when he was critically injured in a car crash. He was helicoptered to Flinders Medical Centre, where he was put on life support, but sadly his life was gone.

Just a week before the accident, in a casual conversation with his parents, Matthew and Fiona, Adam told them he had registered to become an organ donor. That night in hospital, Adam's decision randomly changed the lives of five people he would never meet. His lungs, kidney, liver and pancreas were donated to five people out of the roughly 1,400 Australians on the waitlist to receive transplants.

Every year, Fiona checks in with the donor coordinator to see how the five recipients are doing. Fiona says that donating Adam's organs is the bright light out of a terrible situation. 'It is a pretty powerful thing to be able to say yes to,' she says. 'Adam touched a lot of lives.' In the years since Adam's death, Matthew and Fiona have worked incredibly hard to increase awareness of organ donation. There is no doubt that stories like Adam's resonate with the public, but both Matthew and Fiona believe more awareness and education are needed to boost organ donation rates.

The 2017 Australian Donation and Transplantation Activity Report showed that just 32 South Australians became organ donors last year, compared with 40 the year before. This figure is despite South Australia having the highest rate of participation nationally on the Australian Organ Donor Register, with more than 68 per cent of adults registered. We already have world-class research and development going on in South Australia in this area. The Royal Adelaide Hospital will soon be one of just three in Australia offering kidney/pancreas transplants. The Dixons have helped fundraise tens of thousands of dollars in Adam's memory to support pioneering research into the preservation of organs before transplant.

We should also investigate the merits of introducing opt-out legislation, an approach which Matthew and Fiona Dixon support. This approach effectively turns every South Australian into a potential organ donor, unless they officially register to opt out. Countries that have embraced the opt-out approach to organ donation include France, Spain, Austria, Belgium and Singapore. Although some opt-out countries are reporting higher organ donation results as a result of the law change, this approach can also be impacted by differing cultural and religious beliefs. I believe there is an opportunity to have a wider debate on this subject and consult South Australians on their views.

However, there is something all of us can do today to help boost organ donation, and that is to spend five minutes signing up to the Organ Donor Register. Anyone over the age of 16 can do this and officially make your intentions clear about what organs and tissues you do and do not want to donate. Many people still believe that little tick on your licence is all it takes to become an organ donor, but it is still important to put your decision on the register. This way medical personnel around Australia can see around the clock that you are an organ donor. Transplants happen quickly, so this is vital. Also, talk to your family about your decision. It is a conversation we all ignore, but it is one we all need to have.

Why do we need to have this conversation when we are already on the register? Because your next of kin have the final say on donation, and research shows that they are 90 per cent more likely to follow your wishes if they already know about them. This figure drops to about 52 per cent where the deceased was not registered and the family had no prior knowledge of their decision. It is a fact that less than 2 per cent of people who die in hospital will be able to donate their organs, so it is a game of odds and circumstance where all the factors have to match up perfectly to result in a successful donation and transplant procedure. That means we need a large number of people simply to register to increase those odds. Introducing an opt-out policy will mean we will have a much larger pool of potential donors.

As Matthew Dixon says, 'You don't ever have the conversation thinking it will happen.' Introducing opt-out legislation would mean that the onus is on those who feel strongly against organ donation, rather than those who simply have not had the conversation yet. The conversation about organ donation should be had with family and loved ones before it is required, not at the time of immense stress and heartache.

The importance of organ donation is recognised in the thousands of people around Australia whose lives have been changed for the better. Right now, Mount Gambier mother Kimberley Telford is one of the many Australians on the list awaiting a call that will change her life. Kimberley is 43, a similar age to mine, and undergoes 10 hours of dialysis each night because of renal failure due to diabetes. She plans her day around her dialysis. She has good weeks and bad weeks. On a recent family trip to the Grampians, Kimberley was able to walk only 50 metres from the car until she got tired and had to return.

Soon Kimberley is expected to be the Royal Adelaide Hospital's first kidney/pancreas transplant recipient. Her husband, Brenton, told me their teenage sons have never known their mother without diabetes. Brenton believes opt-out legislation would have major benefits for the current organ donation system. In fact, it is Brenton's continual conversations with me that have raised the awareness with me and brought this notice of motion to the house today. The current benefits will significantly decrease waiting times resulting in fewer health complications for patients and, in turn, less impact on the health system.

In effect, the opt-out approach would save taxpayers money. Brenton said, 'I don't believe in taking them with you. Give someone else a second chance.' These are important words from someone who understands the organ donation journey. This week, I encourage all South Australians to hear the stories of Adam and Kimberley, make their decisions clear on the Australian Organ Donor Register and talk about it with family, friends and loved ones. Kimberley's life and the lives of other South Australians depend on it. I commend the motion to the house.

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (12:20): I would like to thank all members who have made a contribution to this very important motion and reiterate the importance of discussing organ donation with your family. If you do have a personal desire, please make that known at least. That is the first step, even if you do not want to go online and formally register. The important thing is to have those conversations so that your wishes are at least known and understood by your family.

Most importantly, I would like to sincerely thank Fiona and Matthew Dixon for allowing me to share their son Adam's story in this place, and Kimberley and Brendan Telford for sharing Kimberley's journey. I wish her all the best. I pray that a donor becomes available and that someone from Mount Gambier is the first to have a transplant in the Royal Adelaide Hospital. That is my wish for a whole range of reasons, not the least of which is the quality of life for Kimberley. With those few words, I commend the motion to the house.

Amendment carried; motion as amended carried.

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