Laws on organs

Michael Laws writes on the reason we have so few organ donations in NZ:

So it was last week as I contemplated my driver’s licence. And tried to understand why, if most of us have “donor” typed on it, only 31 people in 2008 actually donated their organs to others.

Sure, you have to be dead. But a lot of us die every year. We fall off things, crash into other things or the wife catches us with the bimbo. That sum must equal more than 31. And given that we’ve committed our mortal remains to assist the mortality of others, then what gives?

The answer is simple. Stupidity. In specific, a fatal combination of medical mindlessness and cultural ignorance. All wrapped into one piece of PC legislation called the Human Tissue Act (2008). The act was supposed to make simpler and numerous. It has had the opposite effect because it allows relatives to overrule the intent and wishes of the dead. It also elevates superstitious gibberish and cultural gobbledegook to the same pantheon as reason and logic.

I think it is appalling that your explicit wishes about donating organs can be over-riden by your relatives. It dishonours the dead to have their wishes ignored.

Add a failure of leadership at Organ Donation New Zealand Dr Stephen Streat making Corrections’ Barry Matthews look like some kind of Harvard genius and you have what you have. Hundreds of desperate Kiwis awaiting the chance for life, and tens of thousands of New Zealanders going to the grave, intact and entire.

Streat’s performance is central to the failure of organ donation in this country. He opposed the sensible suggestions contained in National MP Jacqui Blue’s 2006 private member’s bill that would have created a central register for organ donations. He was instrumental in the construction of the Human Tissue Act and remains a resolute defender of the relative veto. Despite it being his job to find new donors, the total number dropped to just 31 last year. All he now needs is the imprimatur of State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie to be wholly condemned.

Ouch. Harsh words, but not without some merit. The body that should be doign everything possible to increase donation rates, consistently argues against such measures on the grounds they do not wish to upset family members.

Never mind the family members of the person who dies needlessly because they could not get an organ they needed.

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