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Family was never asked to donate son's organs

The Dominion Post | Thursday, 1 March 2007

A mother who lost her son in a drowning has told Parliament's health select committee his family were never given the chance to consider donating his organs or tissue.

The committee heard submissions yesterday on the Human Tissue Bill, which aims to balance the wishes of a dead person with the cultural and spiritual needs of their family.

Tim Jamieson, 21, died in a kayaking accident on the Buller River in February, 2002.

His mother, Rosemary Jamieson, said that through all their dealings with medical workers immediately after his death, no one raised the issue of donating Tim's organs.

She said he had not indicated he wanted to be a donor on his driving licence, but had a generous nature. "I imagine, that like most young people, he considered himself indestructible."

Mrs Jamieson said organ donation would have helped her family grieve.

"I was dismayed that some small part of my son had not been able to be used to enhance the lives of others."

Earlier, the committee heard from Medical Association chairman Ross Boswell, who described the problems faced by medical staff broaching the sensitive topic of organ donation with grieving families.

He said they could not take the "donor" indicator on licences as the final word on the subject.

"People at the sharp end are unwilling to proceed with organ donation, if there's a feeling among the family that it's a bad thing," he said.

"They are not going to have security called to have grieving relatives stripped off the trolley by security guards."

Dr Boswell said a system of "advanced directive" could be set up to convey people's wishes, possibly using a flag on the National Health Index.

The Nurses Organisation Maori policy analyst, Sharon Clair, also brought a human element to the committee, telling them about her sister, who needs a kidney transplant.

"Interestingly, my sister ... is not pressing anyone for it."

She said attitudes to organ donation among Maori were beginning to shift, from total opposition, to discussing the issue openly at hui.

Australia and New Zealand organ donation registry figures show 25 people donated organs last year, a record low.

At present, about 400 people are waiting for a kidney transplant and 29 for heart, lung, liver or pancreas and kidney transplants.

courtesy of STUFF www.stuff.co.nz

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