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.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.