The families of dying patients will be asked about the possibility of organ donation — even if the dying family member is not on the register — under a new Victorian system aimed at boosting donation rates.
The “automatic assessment” system has been trialled at the Royal Melbourne Hospital over the past four years and resulted in a boost to donation rates, the Victorian Government said.
Under the system, the default position will be for staff to assess the organ donation suitability of all patients nearing the end of their life, and then consult their family if the patient is suitable.
Health Minister Jill Hennessy said that system is in the process of being rolled out to all public hospitals and intensive care units across the state and it is expected to lift donation rates by 10 per cent.
“We know that the most effective opportunity for organ donation is that precious window of opportunity towards the end of life and discussions with families at that time,” Ms Hennessy said.
“If [the dying patients] are suitable for organ donation, clinicians will then commence the discussion with next of kin and family who will reserve the right to make a decision either way.
“What this does is it opens up potential donors and puts in place a practice in our emergency departments, in our intensive care units, to ensure that anyone who might possibly be able to be a donor — with the consent and support of their family — is actually identified.”
The Opposition said the Governments announcement of a “new” system actually describes the current practice at Victorian hospitals.
“The Minister is pretending that something is not occurring when it actually is across the board, hospitals across Victoria are already assessing every patient thats dying for organ donation,” Opposition health spokeswoman Mary Wooldridge said.
“Yes, we need to continue and to make sure that that process happens, but it already is widespread and happening routinely right across Victoria.”
She said if elected, a Coalition Government would run a $2 million organ donation awareness campaign and prompt Victorians to register for donation when they renew their drivers licences.
“Evidence shows that if youre a registered organ donor, 90 per cent of the time families will then agree to donate your organs if in that situation,” she said.
The Royal Melbourne Hospitals head of transplant surgery, Amanda Robertson, said the new practice means less potential donors are missed.
“At the moment, in some places, potential donors are probably being missed because theyre not deemed to be suitable for whatever reason, whether medically, or people are concerned about approaching the family for maybe no particularly good reason,” Ms Robertson said.
“The really big thing is the intensive care unit … what theyre doing is essentially approaching people when their loved one has died in intensive care unit, or is very close to dying.
“The more organs we can get, the better, and its really important to keep pushing that with the public and thats why its so important to get the message out there to get people to talk about organ donation.”
Elle Richards received a new kidney in an operation at the Royal Melbourne Hospital a fortnight ago, and said she now feels she has her life back.
“I cant even explain the amount of energy that I have just straight away, within two days of the transplant I felt like a different person,” Ms Richards said.
“I felt I was kind of on hold, now I have freedom to travel, I can go visit my family who live interstate.
“I was very lucky, I was only waiting a year and four months, which seems like a long time but in dialysis years is like one night.”
Ms Richards was undergoing eight-hour dialysis sessions, four times a week before the surgery but is now able to dedicate more time to her PhD studies and hopes to be able to travel to attend conferences on Indigenous education.
Topics: health, doctors-and-medical-professionals, medical-ethics, government-and-politics, states-and-territories, melbourne-3000, vic
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