Organ Donor Awareness Week
Organ Donor Awareness Week aims to increase donors and encourage discussion
This week is New Zealand’s first Organ Donor Awareness Week (April 24 – 30). Its objective is to encourage people throughout New Zealand not only to decide to become an organ donor, but to discuss this decision with friends and family.
Recent research shows that while most New Zealanders agree with the idea of organ donation (90%), less than 70% are unaware that their family would be asked to make the final decision, and just over 50% know what their family member’ opinions.
New Zealand’s donation rates are not high compared with other western countries, and at any time, there are about 400 people waiting for a donated organ or tissue to save or improve their lives.
Transplant Donor Co-ordinator, Janice Langlands, says that if more organs were donated then this would have an impact on current waiting lists for transplantation and would also reduce the number of people who die each year while waiting for the right organ to become available.
Organ donation can only take place after a person’s brain has died and if that person is on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit. The families of potential donors are approached by doctors for permission to transplant organs, and Ms Langlands says that if the idea of organ donation has not been discussed among the family previously it is not uncommon for the family to refuse.
“This is a very traumatic and emotional time for family members, who will have been told that their loved one has absolutely no chance of recovery,” she says.
“We know that when people have discussed the idea of organ donation and let their wishes be known to their families, there is more likelihood that the families will say yes to donation.”
Organ Donor Awareness Week in New Zealand is run in conjunction with the National Kidney Foundation and the National Transplant Donor Co-ordination Office and sponsored by Novartis New Zealand.