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Katie, 5, to help dad make plea to MPs

By REBECCA PALMER - The Dominion Post | Wednesday, 21 February 2007
MAARTEN HOLL/Dominion Post

LIFE: Katie Tooky will probably need a liver transplant by the time she is 10. She will accompany father Andy to make submissions to a select committee considering a bill designed to improve NZ's rate of organ donation.

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She is only five years old, but today Katie Tookey will front up to 11 politicians.

Her father, Andy Tookey, is to make submissions to the health select committee, which is considering two bills aimed at improving New Zealand's poor rate of organ donation. Katie will be seated beside him at the meeting.

The Christchurch girl has a rare liver condition, biliary atresia, in which the bile ducts are not formed properly.

Andy Tookey, who has been campaigning to improve organ donor rates since she was a baby, said "stopgap" surgery had been reasonably successful. But doctors had said she would probably need a transplant by the age of 10.

He said select committees often got "bogged down with grey suits. I wanted them to see what the human side of it is."

Katie was a bit puzzled yesterday about what a select committee was. But she was all smiles about her trip to Parliament, nodding when her father said it was "better than school".

Andy Tookey is the co-author of National MP Dr Jackie Blue's private member's bill – the Human Tissue (Organ Donation) Amendment Bill – which is before the committee.

It aims to prevent anyone overturning the wishes of a registered organ donor.

It would create an "opt on" register where people would be able to nominate organs they want to donate.

Yesterday, Andy Tookey and Katie presented a 1600-signature petition – described by Katie as "heavy" – to Blue in support of the bill.

"In short, this proposed legislation has the ability to save not just one life, but many," he said in his submission on it. He is also presenting a submission on the Government's Human Tissue Bill, which he says contains nothing to help increase donor rates and could lower them further.

Australia and New Zealand Organ Donation Registry figures show just 25 people donated organs in New Zealand last year, a record low. The figure put the donor rate at six donors per million people – poor by international standards.

At present, about 400 people are waiting for a kidney transplant and another 29 for heart, lung, liver or pancreas/ kidney transplants. A Land Transport New Zealand spokesman said about 46 per cent of people were listed as donors on their driver's licences – the equivalent of almost 1.4 million car licence holders.

But the driver licence register is considered only an indication of people's wishes and does not represent legal consent. Because of this, the Government plans to establish a national organ and tissue donor register and has introduced the Human Tissue Bill, also before the committee. The bill aims to balance the wishes of a dead person with family needs.

courtesy of STUFF www.stuff.co.nz

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