SST on organ donations

A good article in the SST:

Kiwis need to give a little more of themselves to help others.

And to incentivise , there are calls for the Government to help fund funerals, bump people up the transplant waiting list and even pay for live donations.

New Zealand has one of the lowest donor rates in the western world, with 8.7 donors per million people, according to 2010 figures from Organ Donation NZ. This compares with France’s rate of 23.7, Britain with 16.4 and Australia with 13.5. …

Canterbury University economics professor Eric Crampton said organ donation was something New Zealanders didn’t really think about, even if they ticked that option on their driver’s licence.

“Nothing around the driver’s licence scheme really helps to encourage an informed decision,” Crampton said. Even if a person has indicated a willingness to donate organs, they need to be in a hospital intensive care unit when they die to be eligible, and next-of-kin consent is still required. “Doctors seem reluctant to assign a terminal patient to a scarce ICU bed in hope the patient’s family will consent to donation.”

Doctors still feel the need to ask for explicit consent from family at what is the “worst possible time”, Crampton said. “It’s no surprise that half of families asked decline.”

Methods of incentivisation are effective in other countries, including payment towards funeral costs. That would also encourage people to discuss the issue with their family when making a will, he said.

Compared with the cost of long-term dialysis, subsidising funerals is relatively cheap. “WINZ helps defray funeral costs for the poor. Why can’t we also defray funeral costs of those helping to save others’ lives?”

Another effective measure in Israel is compensating live donors with up to 40 days’ lost wages and expenses. Expenses such as travel are covered in New Zealand, but not wages. National list MP Michael Woodhouse has proposed a private member’s bill to give donors the equivalent of 80 per cent of their earnings using the same formula applied to income support for ACC recipients.

A Sunday Star-Times reader poll showed overwhelmingly that families should not overrule the deceased if they have indicated on their driver’s licence they want to donate organs.

From a sample of 1029, 87 per cent were adamant the deceased’s wishes must be followed. Eight per cent said it was OK to overrule and 4 per cent didn’t know.

“Your organs belong to you, not your family. If you have signalled that you want to be an organ donor then that wish should be honoured,” was a typical response.

“I would be most upset if my family was to override my wish to be a donor. Perhaps we should all take time to discuss our wishes,” wrote another reader.

While that poll is not a scientific sample, the result is so over-whelming I suspect the vast majority of NZers agree that families should not get to veto the explicit wishes of the deceased.

All these other measures talked about are laudable, and I support. But most of all we need a law change to give priority to your wishes, should you die and have consented to organ donation.

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