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Committee Recommends Changes to Donor Regime

November 26, 2003

Select Committee Recommends Changes
to Organ Donor Regime

Parliament’s Health Select Committee today recommended major changes to the organ donor regime in New Zealand to bring it into line with other countries. Currently New Zealand has a comparatively low organ donor rate of around 9.5 donors per million of population compared to 10.6 in Australia and 32.6 in Spain.

The Committee’s recommendation follows a petition to Parliament by Andy Tookey of Auckland where live organ donor, Suzanne Callander of Tauranga made submissions with assistance from Wellington public relations and constitutional law specialists, Gerry Morris and Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

The recommendations from the Health Select Committee to Government include:
- Fund ongoing education for health professionals on organ donation
- Fund an appropriate ongoing national public awareness campaign aimed at increasing the organ donor rate.
- Establish and fund a national organ donation agency responsible for organising, supporting, auditing and reporting on the national organ donation system.
- Require the national organ donation agency to co-ordinate the collection of organs and to train and education those carrying out the collection.
- Establish a dedicated national organ donor register to replace the current system linked to the driver licensing system.
- Review service and resource allocation issues associated with organ donation and transplantation services.
- Develop a system to encourage active discussion about organ donation between potential donors and their families.
- Develop nationally consistent protocols for gaining consent from next-of-kin for organ donation.

Though it is rare in New Zealand for people to become live donors of body organs, it is more likely that they can become donors after their death. Suzanne Callander wants to improve the rate of cadaver organ donations which in practice means organs are taken from people who die after an accident or major illness while in hospital intensive care units where they are on ventilators.

Research commissioned for presentation to the Select Committee with assistance from Roche Products (NZ) Ltd showed that last year only 38 people who died while on life support systems in hospital donated their organs to save another person's life, yet the waiting list for transplants was 400 at the time.

Suzanne Callander is delighted that the Select Committee has taken such a humane approach and relieved that they have taken her submissions seriously.

“Government can now act on the New Zealand organ donor shortage which will result in real savings for our health system. We have world class surgeons in New Zealand who have proved conclusively that they can save lives through organ transplants.

“I risked my life being a live donor and have seen the immense joy it can bring to a family. There will be hundreds of New Zealand families who will benefit from this new regime,” says Suzanne.

Campaign spokesperson Gerry Morris said that the Select Committee report is a milestone and the next step is likely to be the drafting of a Bill for consideration by Parliament and put some haste into the process of getting the Select Committee’s recommendations implemented.


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