Victorian Minister for Health Jill Hennessy recently announced a new ‘automatic assessment’ system which will determine whether a patient is suitable for organ donation. While Victoria has the highest number of deceased organ donations in Australia, many people are still waiting up to four years for an organ transplant. The automatic assessment has been trialled at the Royal Melbourne Hospital over the past four years and resulted in an increase in the donation rates.
Automatic assessment process
Patients with a terminal illness in public hospital emergency departments or intensive care units will be automatically referred to experts at Donate Life Victoria (an independent statutory agency staffed by health and medical experts in this area). If the patient is deemed suitable to become a donor, clinicians would discuss organ donation with the patient’s family. If the patient wished to (or their family if the patient lacked capacity), they would then have the option to join the Australian Organ Donor Register.
The new process is currently being implemented in all public hospitals and intensive care units throughout the State and is not intended to replace the Register.
Importantly, there is no compulsion on the patient or their family to join the Register, and the system appears aimed at increasing awareness.
The current process
Under the current process, a person living in Victoria that wishes to become an organ donor should join the Australian Organ Donor Register. This Register can then be checked by doctors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Registration system can be completed online through the Australian Department of Human Service website, and it is best if this is also discussed with family members so they are aware of the registration.
Succession planning and organ donation
We often see clients consider organ donations as part of their succession planning strategy, and include directions in their letter of wishes (an informal document which provides guidance to their executors) about their wishes.
Given the time sensitivity around organ donations, a key aspect is making sure key people (your family and your GP) know this wish, and that this has been included in the Australian Organ Donor Register to ensure it can be acted on in time.
If you require any further information on organ donation and your succession planning please contact us.