Ideas welcomed to increase NZ's organ donation rates

Ideas welcomed to increase NZ's organ donation rates

Kiwis waiting for organ transplants are welcoming moves to boost donor numbers.

The Ministry of Health has put forward a number of proposals to increase our organ donation rate and is now seeking public feedback.

Imogen Constantine has her ups and downs, but she doesn't like to let her illness get in the way of life.

"Occasionally I'll just have really bad days where I just feel horrible," she says. "I'll just get quite bad liver pain, or I'm really tired and not motivated to do anything," she says. "Most of the time I'm pretty fine."

She has an auto-immune liver disease and is waiting for a transplant.

"It's a weird situation to be in, where you're just waiting for something like this. I like to live everyday as it comes and try not to think too far ahead in the future."

She's been waiting six months so far and mum Alexandra is undergoing tests to see if she can be a live donor.

"If a liver came along and I didn't need to go through the process of donating my own liver, great," says Ms Constantine, "because then I could be there to care for her after the operation."

If she donates part of her liver to her daughter they'll both need months of care.

Donor rates in New Zealand are low, around 12 per million people, compared to 18 per million population in Australia and almost 40 per million population in Spain. 

Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman wants to change that.

"Increasing donation rates is about changing the culture around donation and making people much more aware of the options."

One of the proposals is to improve the driver licence donor system. Fifty-four percent of New Zealanders have ticked yes to being a donor, but it's not routinely used by clinicians at the time of death.

Ms Constantine would like to take it a step further with an opt-out system, like Spain, where consent is presumed.

"Because people don't have to make that final hard choice in a really sad time, the choice is made for them.  And if they really don't want to they can opt out."

But she supports anything that would help more people like Imogen find their perfect match. 

Consultation runs until July 29.