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March 29, 2010 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Organs not on the table

News

Do you really need them when you’re dead?

A Victoria University expert on organ and tissue donation says cultural sensitivity is sometimes believed to be behind New Zealand’s low rates of deceased organ donation, but the issues are more complex.

School of Social and Cultural Studies Senior Lecturer Dr Rhonda Shaw will lead a seminar on 7 April to address a range of issues to do with organ and tissue donation and transplantation in New Zealand.

Shaw says the issues are “profoundly significant” considering New Zealand has one of the lowest rates of deceased organ donation in the western world.

“Currently the rate of donation is about nine deceased donors per million population.

“We are not sure why the numbers are so low, but it might be related to cultural issues—reluctance in respect to cutting up the body and the desire to maintain bodily integrity in death—both for Maori and Pakeha.”

Shaw is hoping that the conference will open up a much-needed dialogue on issues crucial to New Zealand’s health system.

One of the most contested issues at the conference will be that of commercialisation and compensation for donors, and will be addressed by several speakers. Under the Human Tissue Act 2008 the commercialisation of any body tissue, including solid organs, is illegal.

“Understandably, New Zealanders have an in-built aversion to commercialisation, because they don’t want to institute a payment system where people feel coerced or influenced into donating organs because they are impoverished or out of work,” says Shaw.

Shaw says current moves by patient and professional groups to promote live donation from blood related donors to donors who are spouses or friends may be a way to address the low donation rate.

“Currently compensation does not even cover time off work, and yet when you consider the benefits of donation to the health system, and to recipients and their families, there is room for more discussion about adequate compensation to meet the costs of live donors.”

Shaw says New Zealand’s high rates of kidney disease and diabetes, especially among Maori, mean the topic of organ donation has huge ramifications for New Zealand. Three of the conference’s presenters will address issues that pertain to Maori specifically, including Dr Robert Webb (Auckland University of Technology) on Maori experiences of organ donation and transplantation.

One Day Seminar—The Future of Organ and Tissue Donation
Wednesday 7 April 2010, 8.30am – 5pm
Hunter Council Chamber, Kelburn Parade, Wellington

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