Report on the Community Consultative Forum – Contact between donor families and transplant recipients

Anonymity of deceased donation is a legal, ethical and social norm in Australia and internationally.  Some donor families, recipients and community groups have advocated for donor families and recipients to have the option of making contact with one another if this is mutually desired.

The Community Consultative Forum was convened by the Organ and Tissue Authority to explore questions concerning waiver of anonymity and direct contact occurring between deceased donor families and transplant recipients in Australia.   The Forum was held in Melbourne on 17 March 2017, included 38 participants representing donor families, transplant recipients, peak bodies, governments and the DonateLife Network, and was facilitated by Dr Dominique Martin, a bioethicist from Deakin University with extensive experience and recognition as an international expert in the ethics of donation and transplantation.

The Forum revealed a broad range of opinions and beliefs regarding the issue of direct contact among Australian donor families and transplant recipients.  In relation to a system of facilitated direct contact, participants outlined that it should only occur with the mutual consent of families and recipients who should be appropriately counselled and provide informed consent prior to disclosure of their identity, and initial contact should ideally be facilitated by a neutral third party.  The need for policies and strategies that protect core values and concerns, such as the individual right to privacy, while providing opportunities for people to act on their own informed choices when these do not conflict with the choices of other people was highlighted. The importance of educating policy makers and health professionals, and engaging community groups and stakeholders in ongoing discussion about these complex issues was also emphasised.

Report on the community consultative forum includes a range of outcomes for consideration by the incoming Board of OTA.

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