AUSTRALIANS should automatically be considered organ donors, unless they indicate otherwise on their licence, says Charles Sturt University (CSU) ethicist Dr Alberto Giubilini.
Dr Giubilini, from CSU centre for applied philosophy and public ethics, said this week’s DonateLife Week was the perfect time for people to think about becoming organ donors.
He said one of the key reasons donor numbers are low was because people often didn’t even consider becoming a donor.
“I think more people would do it if they knew about the benefits to the healthcare system and other people,” he said.
“People should be better informed about the risks and the benefits.”
Dr Giubilini said last year there were only 391 deceased donors in Australia, which equates to around 17 donors for every million Australians.
“Clearly, Australians are not doing enough,” he said.
“With the current system, the problem is not so much that people decide not to sign up but that they don’t decide anything at all. They simply don’t think about the possibility because they are never asked.”
Dr Giubilini said raising the profile of the need to donate was another way to encourage organ donation but an opt-out system was a more effective way.
“In countries such as Austria, Belgium, and Singapore people will become deceased donors unless they declare otherwise,” he said.
“This approach would guarantee Australians who would opt to become donors if they only considered the option could easily do so. In fact, it would be so easy they wouldn’t have to do anything at all.
“Deceased donations in Singapore increased nearly eight times over three years after an opt-out system was introduced, and Austria and Belgium have more than twice as many donors per million head of population than Australia.”
Dr Giubilini said another way to increase donor number was to follow Israel’s example and give people who agree to become donors priority status on transplant waiting lists in the event they needed an organ themselves.
“Australia has already committed $1.2 million to a trial policy on living organ donation, so why not implement a trial scheme on other organ-related policies such as an opt-out system and the reciprocity policy?”