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Organ Donation on Track for a New Record Low?

17 August 2006

Organ Donation on Track for a New Record Low?

Figures released by the Australia and New Zealand Organ Donor Registry this week show that New Zealand is on track for another record low number of organ donors for this year.

Last year, with only 29 organ donors not only was it our lowest rate of donors ever recorded despite the extra staffing and huge injection of money for staff training, it was also relegated to third world status with just 7 donors per million of population. (on par with Costa Rica and Peru.)

In stark contrast to our 7 donors pmp are Spain at 35.1 pmp, USA at 22.2 pmp and Canada at 12.8pmp.

The organ donor registry reports our donor rates are lower at this years' half year point than at our record breaking low last year.

Transplant surgeon, John McCall in an article published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal argues why transplant surgeons are opposed to the proposed law change currently being considered by Parliament's Health Select Committee.

The Legislation being considered is that if a person registers as an organ donor then no other person can veto that wish. It also proposes a new legally binding register to replace the driving licence system that is regarded as an indicator only.

Further the legislation provides for an extensive public awareness campaign.

Dr.McCall's article is poorly researched, provides wildly inaccurate figures and uses selective studies.

Dr.McCall perpetuates the line that "not many families veto a donors wish" and uses 'overseas studies' to "translate" that into "The New Zealand Context. which would only result in between 0 and 1 additional donors"

However, in their own audit into Intensive Care Units it revealed that out of 104 potential donors the doctors did not even ask 35 families and 31 families said no. The Organ Donor Service has publicly stated that they never went back and checked the donor wishes on the driving licences of those 31 potential donors. So how do they know how many would have said no if they didn't ask them in the first place?

I don't know what 'studies' Dr. McCall has been looking at but in the 11 May 2006 British Medical Journal it states that "41% of families veto the request".

In the USA, Illinois reports that 19% of families veto. And in Urbana 20% of families veto.

43 USA States and 26 European Countries have enacted into law that no-one can veto your wish to be an organ donor.

The same law is to be introduced in the UK in two weeks time.

It is time we respected a persons autonomy, their right to decide and not have others take that decision off them when they are not around to argue it.

It is also time to save the lives of those who would otherwise be buried next to those who wanted to be donors but had their decision stripped of them by others.

We hope that the select committee will take note that it is only a minority of doctors who are opposed to this legislation. A Colmar Brunton Poll shows that 80% of New Zealanders' support the change.

a.. Andy Tookey is Director of GiveLife NZ - A lobby group for organ donation reform.


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