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  • One-stage system may boost Vic organ donor register

    Author: AAP

Australians are missing out on potentially life-saving organ transplants because of clunky registration processes, community education and conversational taboos, an inquiry has heard.

Victoria has the second-lowest organ donor registration rate in Australia at 22 per cent, despite most Australians being in favour of organ donations and only one in three registered county-wide.

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Even when people have consented and registered to donate their organs, there were often medical barriers to transplants occurring, DonateLife state medical director Rohit D'Costa told a parliamentary committee.

"It is quite genuinely a rare opportunity that people can donate organs," Dr D'Costa told the committee.

Of the roughly 80,000 Australians who died in hospital last year, 701 were consented organ donors either through registration or familial agreement and only 454 of those became donors.

"It's really important that we try and maximise the donor pool," Dr D'Costa said.

A four-person panel from Alfred Health said many potential donors wrongly thought they were too old or unhealthy to donate, and patients or families often changed their minds when informed by health teams, they said.

DonateLife general manager Tony Holland said Victoria's registration rate had suffered since licence provider VicRoads' donor registry was handed over to the Australian Organ Donor Register in 2000.

"We're not confident that these registrations were all carried over when the ADR was created in 2000," Mr Holland told the committee.

"South Australia is the only state in Australia who continues to have a driver's licence system and their registration rate is 73 per cent."

Mr Holland said Victoria's registration process was too convoluted and the state was losing potential donors through a two-stage process that re-routed people to the Medicare webpage.

"It's got to be a seamless, automatic tick-the-box there, 'Yes, I made my decision,' and bang, it happens," he said.

Mr Holland said a spike in registrations during the COVID-19 vaccinations backed up the idea.

"When people had to check their COVID status on Medicare, registrations were through the roof," he said.

"It's still not ridiculously high, but they went through the roof because they went onto Medicare, and they checked their registration, saw organ donation and registered immediately."

Dr D'Costa said a multi-language and culturally appropriate community education program was also crucial, so family knew their loved one's organ donation preferences when the time came.

"Nine in 10 families say yes to organ donation when their loved one was registered, and they had discussed it," he said.

"This drops to four in 10 when families do not know what their loved ones intended."

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