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National ethical guidelines unveiled on organ, tissue donation

07 June, 2007

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has publicly released the National Ethical Guidelines on Organ and Tissue Donation.

The guidelines have been developed by the NHMRC’s Australian Health Ethics Committee. They include companion documents for community use and for use by counsellors, as well as extensive ethical guidelines for health professionals.  They are intended as a resource to assist hospital administrators and health professionals working in the organ donation sector follow ethical practices.

Chief Executive Officer of the National Health and Medical Research Council, Professor Warwick Anderson, said the guidelines will assist the medical community in dealing with the ethical complexities associated with organ donation. These include the need to ensure that the autonomy and welfare of the donor takes precedence over the needs of the potential recipient, that both donors and recipients are fully informed about the potential risks, and that conflicts of interest are avoided.

The NHMRC has engaged in extensive public consultation with community groups and health professionals as well as State and Territory Governments in developing the guidelines.

Only one per cent of people die in circumstances conducive to organ donation and it is important that clear ethical guidelines are followed so families are comfortable working with medical teams to ensure that the organ donation is successful.

Australia has one of the highest transplant success rates in the world and is a leader in organ transplant surgery but continues to have one of the lowest donation rates in the developed world.

In 2006, 731 Australians received life saving organ transplants from just 202 deceased donors.

The National Ethical Guidelines on Organ and Tissue Donation are available through the NHMRC website.