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Donors 'should take priority'

By MARCUS STICKLEY - The Nelson Mail | Friday, 16 March 2007
A Richmond heart transplant recipient is backing a call for donors to take priority for organ transplants.

Bruce Byers, 60, said donors should receive organs ahead of non-donors because they were willing to donate themselves.

Organ donation campaigner Andy Tookey last week said it was not fair to give an organ to someone who would not donate his or her own, ahead of a registered donor who needed it.

Mr Byers, one of only two heart transplant recipients in the Nelson region, said whether a person was a donor should be part of the assessment for transplant surgery.

He suffered from congestive heart failure - "basically it was stuffed" - before his transplant in February last year. He waited five months before a heart became available.

After the operation Mr Byers found out his old heart would have only lasted another eight to 12 weeks. The transplant extended his life expectancy by 10 to 15 years.

"To get a new life is absolutely amazing."

Having the transplant firmed his views on organ donation, he said.

Mr Byers supports the Human Tissue (Organ Donation) Amendment Bill, co-authored by Mr Tookey and National MP Jackie Blue, which would prevent anyone overturning the wishes of a registered organ donor.

The bill is before a select committee along with the government's Human Tissue Bill. Under the Government bill, which aims to balance the wishes of a dead person with the cultural and spiritual needs of his or her family, a donation cannot proceed if members of the immediate family are distressed.

The Government also plans to establish a national organ donor register.

Mr Byers was not a donor before his transplant but now plans to register. His heart would not be accepted but he would be willing to donate any organs that were needed, he said.

He was cautious about receiving the transplant at first because of his previous heart operations.

"The thought of the chainsaw going through the same scar scared the hell out of me."

Australia and New Zealand Organ Donation Registry figures show only 25 organ donations were made last year - a rate of six per million people, which is poor by international standards.

Mr Byers said the low donor rates made him fear for his families' chances if they ever needed an organ transplant.

"It scares me thinking about my two boys and their sons and daughter."

courtesy of STUFF www.stuff.co.nz

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