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LOTR director gets behind organ donation awareness

LOTR director gets behind organ donation awareness campaign

Peter Jackson has offered his support for the “GiveLife” campaign, which was sparked by the plight of Andy and Janice Tookey’s 17 month-old daughter Katie, who suffers from a rare liver disease. Katie will need a liver transplant at some stage, in the future, in order to survive. But right now, her chances are not good. New Zealand is ranked in the bottom four in the ‘civilised’ world for annual number of organ donations, with just 37 donors last year. There are around 400 people currently on the national transplant waiting list.

“There is something Hobbit-like in the ‘she’ll be right’ complacency among most New Zealanders,” said Jackson. “ I was shocked to discover the low level of organ donation in this country as we are all in the position of potentially needing the replacement of a vital organ. This little girl will die, as will others like her, unless we all make an active effort to address this problem.”

“Hundreds of healthy organs are lost every day, because people are not aware of the organ donor programme. This is a life-saving gift that we all can make to fellow New Zealanders, and it costs us nothing. Ninety percent of people who receive an organ transplant will live. Without the organ donors, 90 percent will die. That’s the stark reality these people face.”

This reality is weighing heavily on the Tookey family, who know that the likelihood of a donor liver coming available for their ailing daughter is very small.

This is because the organ donor programme, which operates primarily through the consent option on NZ driver’s licences, has not been embraced by the public at large.

“It all comes down to education, both public and professional, which is lacking due to insufficient funding,” said Mr. Tookey.

“As it stands, donor consent can be easily overturned. The sad fact of matter is if you have indicated consent for organ donation on your driving licence, but not discussed it with your family, then it is not worth the paper it’s written on.”

“People need to be very clear about their wishes with their families. Unfortunately just ticking ‘yes’ on your driving licence application is not legally binding and families can override this directive, if they choose.”

Peter Jackson says he is also concerned that, under the current system, people are only offered the option of a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response to the donor consent question. This may put off people who, for cultural reasons, may wish to specify which organs they choose to donate.

Mr Jackson also urges the Ministry of Health to buy a ‘liver bypass’ machine.

“End-stage liver patients have died, only to have a suitable organ become available shortly afterwards. A bypass machine would buy such patients a bit of extra time.”

He said he was dismayed to learn that New Zealand does not own one of these machines, which, at a cost of $25,000, should be within the Health Ministry’s budget.

“Liver bypass machines are standard health care in every other part of the world, China recently bought 60 of them.”

Further details of the Tookeys’ campaign can be found at

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