Organ donor campaigner calls for change in law
11 January 2005
By MICHELLE BETHELL
A North Shore man wants a change to the law that allows family members to override a person's wish to be an organ donor after their death.
Mairangi Bay organ donor campaigner Andy Tookey has started a petition he will present to Parliament about the right to be a donor.
Under the Human Tissue Act 1964 relatives of a dead person have the right to decide whether organs are donated, regardless of the deseased's wishes.
"It only takes one objection from a family member for a person to not be a donor," he says.
The Parliamentary Health Select Committee will be reviewing the laws surrounding the act in the middle of 2005.
Mr Tookey aims to collect enough signatures for his petition to make Parliament take notice of people's wishes to be able to decide what happens to their body after death.
In a One News Colmar Brunton poll conducted last year 80 per cent of people said that family members should not be able to decide for the dead person.
Mr Tookey says the chances of being an organ donor are slim because there have to be specific circumstances surrounding a death, including dying in hospital.
In 2003 only 37 deceased people were donors. In this country one donor can help up to 10 people, in the United States that figure is closer to 50.
For example, the liver has the ability to regrow, so can be cut into quarters and given to four different children.
Mr Tookey began looking into New Zealand's organ donor system several years ago when he discovered that his daughter Katie would need a liver transplant.
He formed GiveLife to raise awareness of organ donations and to try to improve our organ donation system.
He has been campaigning for the establishment of an organ donor register and the abolishment of the driver licence system of registering donors.
He says the driver licence system doesn't work because deciding to be a donor is a completely separate issue to becoming a licensed driver.
"It's an afterthought, tagged on to a totally unrelated action, and administered by a department concerned solely with transport regulation and safety.
"The licence-based system also effectively cuts out non-drivers, including all those aged under 15, regarded as the best donors."
He also believes people are not given any information about donating when they apply for their licence, and there are no comprehensive options available to them.
"On the driver licence it only gives you a yes or no option. It also doesn't allow you to specify which organs you want to donate, so if people have a problem with donating one of their organ, such as the eyes, they tick `no'."
The Government has agreed to make some changes and a new organ donor agency, Organ Donation New Zealand, is due to be set up this year. However, the Government has twice rejected the need for an organ donor register.
Mr Tookey says even people who don't want to be a donor should sign this petition because the issue works both ways.
"It's about the right to have your wishes carried out after your death.
"Once you are dead you don't have any rights. Even if you don't want to be a donor, a relative could turn around and say `have the lot'."
If you wish to sign the petition, go to www.givelife.org.nz and click on the link to sign our petition.
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