Speaking of pigs growing human organs, why are so few of us donors?


Consultation is open on ways to increase New Zealand’s woeful rate of deceased organ donation, including improving the driver licence system.

Demand for organs in New Zealand, especially kidneys, is increasing but the donation rate was 11.8 donors per million people in 2015.

That’s well behind Australia with a rate of 18.3 donors per million last year, while Spain leads the world with 39.7 donors per million.

However, the deceased donor rate is increasing in New Zealand, with 53 donors last year, 46 in 2014 and 36 in 2013.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says while New Zealand has parts of an effective organ donation and transplant service, “we can do better”.

“Organ transplantation is a life-saving treatment and for people with organ failure it’s often the only option available,” he says.

One deceased donor can provide up to seven organs, meaning each one could save seven lives.

However, live donors can also help, particularly with kidneys and livers.

Potential changes to the system include raising awareness, standardising the way hospitals identify potential donors and how donation is discussed with families.

A change to the driver licence system where medical staff are told if someone’s indicated they want to be a donor could also be on the cards.

Currently, that information isn’t routinely used by clinicians because of concerns over the lack of information about donation people get when they apply for a drivers’ licence.

The consultation period follows a Ministry of Health-led review of deceased organ donations rates, the proposed changes based on international best practices, local evidence and an expert panel.

I believe the real reason that New Zealand has such a poor donation record is due to the fact that it has lacked a recognisable champion.  Yes, there are cultural barriers as well as basic fears to overcome.  A neighbour of mine some years ago simply believed that St John’s simply wouldn’t try as hard if they knew your death would benefit over half a dozen others into a better quality of life.

There also remains the issue that you make want to be a donor, but in the end, it is your family that makes the decision to go against you.  It’s not easy to have the tragedy of an accident compounded by being sliced and diced and sent to all corners of the nation when the shock is still so raw that the grief hasn’t even started yet.

And yet we haven’t really tackled this as a nation.  Nobody with the right story, the resources and the mana has gotten behind this, even though we’ve had our Billy T James’ and Jona Lomu’s to use as examples.

As a consequence, this is a bi-annual story that pops up when we waffle on about trying to do better, and putting something on a drivers licence, while all this is old ground that has resulted in the situation where very few of us are willing to donate after death.

Until a champion appears that we can get behind, it will remain a story the media dust off every so often only to be forgotten by the next day.

One donor can save or improve the lives of up to ten other people.


– Newshub


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  • DoomAndGloom

    Apparently only 48% of NZ’ers are listed as donors via the licensing system, but you can bet 99% of people would accept an organ if needed.

    • Madman

      If 48% are listed as doners on NZ licences, how can NZ only have a donor rate of 11.8 per million people. If the licence says donor, then the family should have no right to veto as its not their body or choice.

      I’m listed as a donor and (also a Platlette donor) would hope they would use what they could, as I would want the same in return for my family or self. My only dilemma with this, is I would hope my organs did not go to P addicts, Murderers etc… and just to those really in need but guess I would not know by then!

      • DoomAndGloom

        I assume it has more to do with organs not being able to be used for other reasons, ie they died of something like heart disease or cancer, therefore making their organs not usable. The percentage of cause of death that still makes organs usable is so small to begin with, not being a donor and having family overrule just makes it even worse.

        • Aquarius 61

          I believe things like vehicle accidents also reduce the opportunities – organs that are too damaged can’t be used either; that’s also assuming they can get to hospital in time to be “harvested”.

        • Dog Breath

          There is a chart that I have seen that shows from a start of 4 million the break down of the process of viable donors. By the time you get to the end of all the criteria only about 50 from that 4 million are possible each year. So even if everyone agreed to donate the increase in donors who do get to donate is not going to be in the 100’s or 1000’s it’s limited for a huge variety of reasons. Hence why being an actual donor is such a precious and wonderful thing to happen.

  • Jman

    Simply make it an opt out system. Everyone is assumed to be a donor unless they have specifically requested for religious reasons or whatever to not be a donor. Problem solved.

    • RAS

      This is the obvious solution. Organ donation is not the same as donating your body to science.

  • Timebandit

    As a motorcycle rider I always carried a kidney donor card in my wallet in the UK and my parents knew that I did… Now ALL my family are aware of my wishes and if I am asked why I refer them to Nicholas Green…http://www.nytimes.com/1994/10/04/world/italy-moved-by-boy-s-killing-and-the-grace-of-his-parents.html

  • pisces8284

    No one would want my organs or blood. Having survived cancer pretty much cancels that out, much as i would like to

    • Seriously?

      I don’t know about that – sounds like you’re made of particularly hardy stuff.

      You can always tick the box and leave the decision on usefulness up to them.

      • pisces8284

        Yes, it’s still on my driving license so it’s up to them to decide

    • Boondecker

      There are other things that can be of assistance to future generations. Often, certain parts will be stored / preserved for study and medical and educational institutions. They don’t just want to take what’s working good.

      • pisces8284

        Very true, hadn’t thought of that. Boondecker. Particularly as my cancer was a particularly rare from of breast cancer – Inflammatory Breast Cancer, only 3% of all breast cancers

  • edenman

    As a long term recipient of an organ transplant I am very fortunate. I have suggested in the past that the donor information should be included in the electoral roll. This way organ donation would come to the forefront every 3 years when electors review their info. Currently it may be a very long time before someone updates their drivers licence
    info. A teenager getting their licence does not understand about donors but will become aware of what is all about as they mature, hence the use of the electoral roll can offer the regular opportunity to review their position.

  • Not Clinically Insane

    Stop family from being able to overrule the wishes of the deceased to be a donor and the problem goes away

  • Boondecker

    Way back in the day, when I applied for the then brand new card format for ID drivers licences, (it had replaced the little green book licences), mine came with “donor” already marked on it. At the time, I remember thinking it must have been something I could have opted out of if I wanted to (it probably was, but I didn’t read forms in those days – it was just a case of where do i sign).

    To be frank, the only thing I had/ still have an issue with being a donor is being sliced and diced into a 1000 or more fine slivers and each then photographed (scanned?) to make an interactive 3-D human body movie (it’s been done already, i know). It might help some scientist or doctor, I suppose, but the thought of being bagged up like bacon for burial or cremation doesn’t really appeal.

    Seriously though, what would I care if I wasn’t whole if I was about to be toasted, roasted or six feet under and yet could help others whilst on the way there? It certainly wouldn’t bother me any more at that point anyway. So, it was (and still very much is) a sort of cathartic ‘pay it forward’ thought process. I’ve remained noted as a donor since. Others should too.

  • rua kenana

    (a) There’s a lot more money from doing transplants than there is from trying to prevent the problem in the first place. Doctors are financially motivated to transplant rather than to cure, although what they actually do is up to their own ethics but sometimes to the state of their finances.

    (b) I am a donor on my driver’s licence. But my body belongs to me and not to the state, which does not, never has had and hopefully never will have any rights to it.

    (c) It may eventuate that some people are worth more dead than alive, just for their organs. Some years ago the Chinese were reputed to be using the bodies of executed prisoners for this purpose. Which motivates an increase in the supply of prisoners to be executed. Not a good motivation in my view, particularly if there’s a ready cashflow coming from it.

    From Sir William Gilbert’s comic opera “The Mikado”
    As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
    I’ve got a little list — I’ve got a little list
    Of society offenders who might well be underground, (or carved up for their parts)
    And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!
    There’s the pestilential nuisances who write for autographs —
    All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs —
    All children who are up in dates, and floor you with ’em flat —
    All persons who in shaking hands, shake hands with you like that —
    And all third persons who on spoiling tête-á-têtes insist —
    They’d none of ’em be missed — they’d none of ’em be missed!

  • willtin

    Organ donation is so 2011; Donate your entire carcass such as I have done.

  • Mick Ie

    Although we are organ donors, we may not be able to donate as we lived in the UK during the late 80s (we can’t donate blood).
    There are NZers with cultural beliefs that do not allow them to donate organs but are on the donor waiting list (or possibly already recipients).
    In my opinion, no one should receive donated organs if they are not prepared to donate themselves.

  • xennex

    Thanks to the wonderful way medical insurance works in the US, being an organ donor can result in large medical bills for your estate. All the pro-donor information is quick to point out that donor do not pay for medical costs associated with the donation, but gloss over the differences in medical care for donors and non donors. Basically a donor is kept alive and given medical care to keep the organs is good order, whereas a non-donor would not be given this care. The extra costs can easily be in the tens of thousands, which your estate or relatives will pay.
    There also is the question about if you are dead before the process starts. See http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204603004577269910906351598

  • tookinator

    Having lived in the UK does not rule you out as an organ donor (It does blood donation) I did an interview on organ donation this morning on Radio NZ. Here is the link to it: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/201803674/organ-register-campaigners-disappointed