1 June 2023
Mr COULTON (Parkes—Chief Nationals Whip) (11:53): I rise today to speak about the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority Amendment (Disclosure of Information) Bill 2023, and I appreciate the contributions of those who have spoken before me. As I understand it, this bill is to allow more information, with the permission of families, to be dispersed to the public in an attempt to raise awareness around organ and tissue donation. I think it is a noble thought, but I believe that when this goes to the Senate it will be under a bit more scrutiny from a Senate committee. We do need to be very careful about some of the firewalls that are in this information. I was actually in charge of organ and tissue donation when I was a minister, and there is a group of people who really want to have information as to where the organs from their loved ones have gone. That may not be a bad thing, but it could also cause huge problems. I think the privacy of people who have received organs should be guarded completely because, for instance, if someone is identified as having a family member’s organs and maybe they’re living a lifestyle that that family is not comfortable with, it could lead to all sorts of issues. While I agree with the sentiment of raising awareness of this, we need to be very careful that we do protect the privacy of the recipients.
With indulgence, Deputy Speaker, on the use of props, I will show you my donor card as an organ and tissue registered donor, but, quite frankly, whether it’s a donor card, ticked on a licence or whatever, none of that matters as much as talking to your family. In that desperate time when a family member is in the process of passing away, sometimes the emotion at the thought of their loved one donating their organs can become too much for families, so it’s really important that you have that conversation with your family members. Regardless of whether you’ve got one of these cards in your wallet, your license ticked or whatever else, if your family is not aware of your wishes then that will become a problem.
One of the misconceptions is that organs can be donated by people who have passed away in all sorts of places. The number of people who passed away in a circumstance that enables the organs to be used is quite narrow. Going from the number of people that pass away that are registered organ donors down to the number of people whose organs are actually donated is quite a narrowing thing. You have to be in a hospital where there is access to a retrieval team. You have to still have your body functioning even if you are classified as having no brain function, and that does narrow it down. I know some organs can handle the person being deceased for a little while before they’re taken and some need to be done at the time of death. Australia does do well. We can do better. If this legislation helps shine a light on the importance of organ donation then that’s a good thing, but, once again, we must respect privacy.
I have a short anecdote about how things can work out. In February 2007, the last day of the school holidays in my home town of Warialda, eight 13-year-olds managed to talk a younger man into taking them out to the state forest on the edge of town to drive in his ute. Those 13-year-olds were all driving around, and one of them lost control of the vehicle. Of all those people in that vehicle, one girl was killed instantly. Nearly all of them were seriously injured, and two found themselves in Sydney on life support. They were 13. One of them was a ward of the state. At that stage, there was no legal way—even though her natural mother was quite prepared for her organs to be donated. Subsequently, in New South Wales, they have changed the legislation around that so that a ward of the state or someone that is under state care can do that.
The other young lad was 13. Incidentally, he’d actually talked about helping other people through donating blood and through organ donation as a matter of course in family discussions, so his parents knew that he did have a wish. Ultimately, his passing enabled other people to live, and I think it helped that family make some sense out of the tragic loss of a 13-year-old son.
It can’t be planned. It can’t be thought about. But, quite often, families find themselves in these circumstances very quickly and unexpectedly. That’s why it’s so important that there is a serious discussion with all the family so when that time comes, despite how emotionally overcome you may be, you do know what the wishes of your loved one is.
I’ll be watching this pass through the Senate. I’ll be hoping that they do put scrutiny onto it, because I know there are others in this country who would like to see that change but I am a firm believer that the privacy of the recipients of organs should be paramount, because we don’t know exactly what sort of relationship we would end up with if the families of donors actually got to meet the recipients of their loved ones’ organs. So I support this bill with the reservation that it is thoroughly scrutinised through the Senate process.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Buchholz):
I thank the honourable member for his contribution, and the question before the House now is that the bill be read a second time.