Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (15:41): I too am very pleased to rise to speak to the Human Tissue Amendment Bill 2020. I noted, as I was thinking about this bill, that I had my DonateLife badge sitting on my desk today. Certainly, as Mr Tarlamis mentioned, donating your organs or your tissue can save not just one life, it can save a dozen lives. Over the course of just last year nearly 1500 Australians’ lives were saved through a transplant due to the generosity of 500 or 600 people. So you can see how the gift really does give.
I am an organ donor and I have had that conversation with my family. In fact all my family are organ donors. I vividly remember the Christmas Day lunch where we had this discussion while the turkey was being cut. It was amusing but it was also great to know that we were all on the same page. We all knew that if something was to happen to us, that we would all do whatever we could to ensure that the organs of my brothers and sisters, my mum and dad, would be donated—and that is what this bill does. In some ways it almost feels administrative. When I decided many years ago to become an organ donor I never imagined that that meant I had not consented to have a blood test prior to that or I had not consented to have administration of antibiotics or an anticoagulant or some sort of X-ray or some sort of study to make sure that my organs were fit to be donated for the next person who might use them. I do not think anyone imagined that that just would not be part of the process. This is what has been discovered—that ante-mortem processes have not necessarily been picked up in this.
What we do know is that the person has to have consented to being an organ donor. We know that. I do not think that I am alone in being an organ donor and assuming that that might have required some form of test of my organs prior to that process taking place. We know from the existing act that this is not a process that is taken lightly. This is a process that requires two medical practitioners already to provide authorisation. Certainly you will have a medical decision-maker there. Just coming in at the tail end of Mr Meddick’s contribution, yes, those decision-makers can overturn my decision. That is why you have those conversations with your families—to ensure that your decision is honoured by that medical decision-maker.
That medical decision-maker right now can say, ‘Well, Fiona might have wanted that, but I don’t want that’ for whatever reasons, and they could deny that. This does not change that, and I think the community is ready to have that conversation about whether your organs are donated unless you actively say, ‘I don’t want them to be’. I think we are at a point where we know the life-giving that organ donation offers. It is something that as a community we are ready to accept and ready to take to that next level. I know countries like Spain which do have an opt-out process have a much larger number of organs donated each year.
By saying that someone’s organs could not be donated because there was not a decision-maker there to say that they consented to an ante-mortem test, I think it denies the final wishes of that person—because what we know is that that person wanted their organs donated. I do not think there is a person out there who has said, ‘I want my organs donated, but I don’t want a blood test before it. I want my organs donated, but I don’t want you to provide any anticoagulant that might keep the organ alive for longer’. I do not believe that there is anyone out there like that, and so I think that this is important legislation.
We know that this is about the benefit to another individual, and the fact that there may have been some silence around ante-mortem testing should not deny the final wishes of a person who wanted their organs to be donated for the benefit of maybe not just one person but of many people. I hope that in future, next year, we will have a much more active and a much more public DonateLife Week. It is something that I have been involved in over the years, both here at Parliament and prior to my time here. I hope that we can further increase the numbers of organs that are donated and that we can reduce that really tragic waitlist. You hear of people who are just waiting by the phone, and it is an awkward and awful thing when people tell you about waiting by the phone for someone to die—to be waiting there to receive a life-saving donation of lungs or of a heart or of tissue or of bone marrow. But to do that, there is the tragedy of somebody else having lost their life or other people having lost their loved one.
But on that note, I thank the minister’s office because this did create, as you know, Acting President Gepp, quite some discussion in the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee when we were considering this legislation and its compatibility with the charter of human rights. I appreciate the very thoughtful correspondence that we received from the minister’s office on that. I think it certainly allayed any fears that I had that this would be a breach of the charter, and therefore I commend the bill.