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Govt, MOH and Committee confused on organ donors

***** Media Statement *****

GiveLife NZ 19 October 2007

Government, Ministry of Health and Select Committee confused on organ donors

The Government, Ministry of Health and some members of the Health Select Committee are all singing from different song sheets on the issue of organ donation says organ donor campaigner Andy Tookey.

Recently, the Health Select Committee released it's report into National Party Associate Health Spokesperson Jackie Blues' Private Members Bill to create a legally binding organ donor register. The committee recommended that it not proceed.

In its written report the committee states:

"We considered this bill in conjunction with the Government's Human Tissue Bill, which does not seek to establish a register but deals broadly with the collection and use of tissue from dead human bodies."

However, in the media statement 'Human Tissue Bill Introduced in Parliament' issued by Minister of Health Pete Hodgson on 7 November 2006, he states:

"The Bill gives recognition to a national organ and tissue donor register. Such a register would need to be established to support the consent framework in the Bill. The Bill requires medical practitioners, donor agencies and others involved in the collection and use of tissue to take "all reasonably practicable steps" (including checking the register) to ascertain whether consent has been given. Why not use the existing Drivers License Register? A person's entry on the current Driver Licensing Register is an indication of a person's wishes at the time they applied for a drivers licence. It does not meet the requirements for consent in the Human Tissue Bill."

The Press Release from the Minister also states:

"The Bill encourages an environment of informed consent of potential donors balanced with protections for family rights and cultural values. It is hoped that these legal protections and the creation of an Organ and Tissue Donor Register will help increase the rate of organ donation in New Zealand, which lags behind the rate of other OECD nations.

"For example, the Current Driver Licensing Register is only an indication of a person's wishes, not legal consent for donation. This has often left grieving families unsure about what to do."It is hoped that the creation of a new Register that provides legal consent and the work of Organ Donation New Zealand to improve awareness will lead to the increase of informed choices to donate."

Why is the law being changed? A lack of clarity in relation to the donor status on the National Register of Driver Licences - many people think the register records consent when it is an indication of wishes only, and the register is not routinely accessed by many health professionals involved in donation." Says Mr.Hodgson.

The Minister in the opening paragraph of his press release said:

"The Labour-led government has taken a major step forward in addressing New Zealand's low rate of organ donation with the introduction of the Human Tissue Bill in Parliament today."

In contradiction, the Director of the Ministry of Health, Stephen McKernan in a Ministry of Health briefing on 21 February 2007 said:

"The Bill does not have a stated aim of increasing organ and tissue donation rates."

Andy Tookey of Givelife NZ says "it is no wonder we are the worst in the world for the number of organ donors we have, there appears to be no communication or cohesive approach to solving the problem, the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing.

As the Minister has acknowledged that the current system "does not meet the requirements for consent in the Human Tissue Bill." then I urge him to introduce an organ donor register as soon as possible, as was the Prime Ministers' 2005 pre-election pledge to have one ."

The Government has made no announcement since the committees' report as to whether it will proceed with a register.

***** ENDS *****

Courtesy of SCOOP - www.scoop.co.nz

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