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Low Organ Donor Rate - Time for a Rethink


Low Organ Donor Rate - Time for a Rethink

New Zealand has the lowest organ donor rate in the Western World. Apart from Greece.

Despite the efforts of Donor Campaigner Andy Tookey who for the past eight years has taken the issue to Parliament several times and has worldwide media exposure thanks to the personal help of film maker Sir Peter Jackson the NZ Organ Donor Service still resist any ideas to improve our dismal organ donor rates. Meaning many will die on the waiting list due to the 'dinosaur dozen' who control our organ donor figures.

At Parliamentary Select Committee hearings on the issue of our appalling low donor rates, those who control those rates point blankly refused to change their ways. Even to the extent that they announced that they would refuse to abide by any proposed law change that would mean that the donor's consent is the only consent required. They said they would not accept the donor without the additional consent of the family.

If that family member happens to be your long lost cousin who you haven't seen for twenty years and hates you and he says 'no' then his decision for you not to be a donor will trump your desire to be one.

There are options for increasing the donor rate, but again refused to be considered as the organ donor service stated in an article in the Herald on Sunday - Organ donation a waiting game. 16 January 2011.

In the article a donor service spokesperson states:

"I think it should be an altruistic gift otherwise they could do it for the wrong reasons."

This is in response to the suggestion that the funeral costs of organ donors should be paid for to help raise the numbers.

Altruism is a fine thing. But is it worth the loss of so many lives each year? Whilst this small group of people decide that their morals are better and higher than everybody elses people die.

"What are the ''wrong reasons?" When you are dead you are not rich or poor you are just dead. Why shouldn't the donor have their funeral costs paid for? They have just saved the health service millions of dollars by getting up to ten people off expensive medical treatments and back into paid, (taxable) work.

There needs to be an incentive to donate.

People are too busy with living to think of their choices after death. If the thought of your family being relieved of the burden of a huge expense of a funeral at what would already be a traumatic time wouldn't you sign up? Ten more families may be saved the burden of funeral cost due to your decision to donate.

Everybody wins.

Only around 50% of drivers have donor on their licence.

What percentage of drivers do you think would except an organ transplant if they needed one to live? Around 100% possibly?

There are two ways to improve the number of drivers who put donor on their licence:

At present people go for their driving licence with no prior information or thoughts about being a donor. They are just presented with the question of "do you want to be an organ donor?" on their application form.

Of course as we know 50% tick "no."

Why not add another question before so it reads: "Would you accept an organ in order to save your life?" and then the question if they want to sign up as a donor. It will give the pause for thought before they suddenly tick "no" to the second question.

The most dramatic way to increase the number of potential donors is to give priority of organs to registered donors over those who refuse to be donors. There are many who would refuse to be donors but if they need an organ they are right up there with registered donors when it comes to getting a transplant. In fact they are quite liable to get a transplant before a registered donor.

That is not fair. Without donors there are no recipients either.

Those that are prepared to save other people's lives should be rewarded over those who refuse to contribute to the pool but will gladly take from it.

There is currently a privately run organ donor register in New Zealand that members do just this. They pledge to be organ donors and with the stipulation that their organs should be offered 'first' to other registered donors. This in turn gives an incentive for others to sign up as donors.

Even the most hardened bludger will sign up as a donor if they think it will one day save their life or the life of a loved one.

This form of directed donation is fully legal in this country. The organisation is called LifeSharers NZ.

Until we have a total rethink, revamp and clean out of the dinosaurs and some hard decisions and action from the government then we will always be a third world country in this area.

-Andy Tookey runs GiveLife NZ a lobby group for change and improvement in our organ donation system


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Katie Tookey's story is on video.

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