Hidden heroes

A petition calling on the WA government to make it legal for families to name organ donors who have died is gathering momentum.

Donor Families Australia chair Bruce McDowell was not able to name his deceased teenage daughter, who became an organ donor in 2008.

Under WA law someone who discloses the name of an organ donor who has died can face a fine of up to $500.

Bruce McDowell is campaigning for change. Photo: Facebook.

Mr McDowell wants to change that.

He started a petition to change the Human Tissue and Transplant Act to allow families to name a donor who has since passed away.

So far it has gathered more than 15,000 signatures.

Mr McDowell says the laws are unfair to organ donors.

“Here we have a government that is sadly disrespecting, in a way, the donor family … all they have to do is make a pretty straightforward simple change to let the next of kin have that ability,” he says.

Mr McDowell says it was an element of the legislation that seems to have been overlooked when it was made.

“The legal advice I did get, is that they are assuming that this was … a mistake,” he says.

“The Minister has put out a letter that says ‘don’t worry about the law we won’t prosecute you’, which is a bit mystifying I see this letter is trivialising the situation by no stretch of the imagination ‘fixing  the situation’ so where we need to get next is to amend the law.”

According to Mr McDowell, there is a simple fix.

He says there are other acts which include a confidentiality clause allowing family members to use the name of a deceased organ donor.

Donate Life WA coordinates organ and tissue donations across WA. Photo: Huia Karaitiana.

The Human Tissue Act has a confidentiality clause which has family members to legally say the name of their beloved organ donor.   

Listen to more from Bruce McDowell.
Dr Simon Towler. Photo: DonateLife WA.

DonateLife WA medical director Simon Towler says although Mr McDowell is correct, there is no need for concern.

“Bruce does not need to be concerned that anybody is going to be prosecuted if they actually name their family donor publicly in this state,” he says.

Dr Towler says the Minister for Health Amber-Jade Sanderson has publicly reassured the community no next of kin will be prosecuted if they name a donor.

The Minister was contacted for comment.

Currently each state and territory operate under different laws.

Dr Towler says legislation affecting donors, and families, in Australian needs to be harmonised.

Listen to more from Dr Simon Towler.

Categories: General, Health

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