Would you overrule dead’s wishes to not donate?


This morning’s Paul Henry poll asks would you overrule a dead family member’s wish to donate their organs?

Of course I wouldn’t and 87% of respondents agree with me.

I am listed as a donor on my driving licence and have discussed this with my family who are happy to abide by that.

If any of my family wanted to be a donor I wouldn’t dream of going against their wishes.

If they hadn’t made their wishes clear then I would be prepared to permit organ donations.

A more troubling scenario would be if I knew they didn’t want to be a donor but their organs could help someone else.

I would really struggle with that decision.

I wouldn’t necessarily follow all a dead family member’s wishes. If he or she wanted a private funeral, for example, I might not keep to their instructions.

Funerals are about the dead but for the living and my preference is, with a very few exceptions, for public celebrations of people’s lives.

Making a decision against someone’s wishes about a funeral like that wouldn’t worry me.

However, the idea of going against someone’s wishes to not donate organs is harder. That thought does trouble me but so too does the idea of failing to make a decision that could make a huge difference to someone else’s quality, and/or length of life.

The poll was prompted by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman’s announcement of consultation on organ donation.

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

“While we already have many of the elements of an effective organ donation and transplantation service in New Zealand we can do better.

“The consultation document sets out a number of changes which could increase our deceased organ donation rate.

“This includes raising awareness, standardising the way hospitals identify potential donors and how donation is discussed with families.

“A suggestion as to how we could better support the hospital team is to improve the driver licence system so medical staff are informed if someone has indicated they would like to become a donor.”

Demand for transplants in New Zealand, particularly kidneys, continues to rise while our rate of deceased organ donation remains comparatively low at 11.8 donors per million population in 2015.

The Government has invested $8 million in a variety of initiatives aimed at increasing organ donation and transplantation. These included support and education for hospital staff, work to help overcome cultural barriers and donor liaison co-ordinators. 

The consultation document follows a Ministry of Health-led review of deceased organ donation rates. The proposals are based on international best practice, local evidence and advice from an expert advisory group.

You can find out more on the issue and how to make a submission at the Ministry of Health.

Organ donation – why wouldn’t you?


Organ donations have enabled some good to come from the tragic death of a young boy:

Leon Michael leFleming Jayet-Cole’s mother gave permission for his organs to be donated as doctors turned off his life support.

Leon’s liver was donated to a baby boy. Both his kidneys were transplanted, one to an adult man and one to an adult woman.

It is rare for such young people to be donors – in the past two years only two other donors have been under 5. Both were just weeks old.

The 5-year-old Christchurch boy died in hospital on May 29 after suffering serious head injuries two days earlier. . .

New Zealand has the lowest organ donation rate in the developed world, with only 46 viable deceased donors in 2014. The youngest donor was only 10 weeks old. The oldest was 82.

In 2013 that figure was even lower, with only 36 viable deceased donors. Only one in that year was aged under 5 – a mere one month old.

For organs to be viable for donation, the death has to be as a result of a head trauma or a stroke.

Organs from one child – like Leon – can save the lives of up to six others with the transplant of the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas. It can also improve the lives of others with the transplant of eyes, skin and bone. . .

My sons died of brain disorders. I don’t know if that meant their organs wouldn’t have been viable but had they been I’d have had no hesitation in donating them.

I don’t understand the reluctance some people have to being donors.

I have donor recorded on my driver’s licence and have discussed the issue with my family.

That wish isn’t legally binding but I think it should be.

I wouldn’t go so far as some who say those who aren’t donors shouldn’t be eligible for transplants but have sympathy for the view that those willing to be donors should have precedence over those who could be but aren’t.

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