Over 12,000 Australians suffer each year while they are on
transplant waiting lists or dialysis. In September 2016, there were
1,361 people waiting for organ transplantation. It has become
evident that Australia's current Opt In organ procurement
legislation has failed to correct the disparity between the number
of people on organ transplant waiting lists and the number of
organs available for transplantation. A number of factors have been
identified which potentiate this ever-widening gap. Primarily, due
to societal apathy towards registering as an organ donor, followed
by potential donors' families denying consent when donation is
requested and the reluctance of health care professionals to
request that the deceased patient's organs be donated.
Australia is ranked 22 in the world for organ donation. We are
behind countries such as Croatia, Spain, Portugal and Italy. Recent
international studies have demonstrated that implementation of an
Opt Out system of organ procurement would increase donation rates
by 50%. Spain has been most successful in implementing
"soft" Opt Out legislation in their country, sustaining
the highest rate of organ donation in the world for the past 2
Implementation of an Opt Out system in Australia requires
examination of several ethical issues. Whilst Australian law states
that there is no property in a dead body, the potential for a
negative impact upon individual autonomy must be considered.
Despite proponents of presumed consent suggesting that
implementation of an Opt Out system could improve individual
autonomy, a number of authors are sceptical of this claim. However,
when weighing limits personal autonomy against the concept of
benefits to society, in terms of giving back to the community,
under a communitarian-based approach, the number of lives that
could be saved as a result of the enacting Opt Out legislation
could be preferable to society.
If implementation of a national "soft" Opt Out organ
donation legislation is proposed in Australia, enactment of this
type of legislation must be prefaced by comprehensive publicity and
education programs, focusing on both the general public and health
care professionals. In conjunction with these amendments to
legislation, Australia should adopt an individual hospital-based
approach to organ donation as described under the "Spanish
Implementation of the Spanish model Opt Out legislation could
result in an additional 1,200 Australians receiving a transplant
Australia must act now to implement these changes because
another 6 Australians will die waiting for organ transplantation
this month, and these people will continue to die until the
disparity between organs required and those available for organ
transplantation is rectified.
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