Woman with six heart conditions wants mandatory organ donation

  • 07/08/2018
Jessica Manning wants New Zealand to introduce an organ donation registry.
Jessica Manning wants New Zealand to introduce an organ donation registry. Photo credit: Facebook/Getty

A young Auckland woman born with six heart conditions has started a petition to make organ donation mandatory in New Zealand.

At 25, Jessica Manning has already undergone eight surgeries and has been waiting for a heart and liver transplant for 16 months. If she doesn't receive new organs, she'll be dead in two years.

She's had health problems all her life, and was diagnosed with multiple heart conditions when she was three. She has undergone five open heart surgeries, two pacemaker surgeries and one lung surgery.

At 19 she was diagnosed with heart failure, and in the last two years was diagnosed with liver disease. She is now dependent on a portable defibrillator.

Ms Manning says the aim of her petition wasn't necessarily to change any laws, but rather to increase Kiwis' awareness of the importance of organ donation.

"It was just getting the word out there to spread the news about organ donation, for everyone to have the talk in the hopes people will change their minds and become donors, because there's hundreds and hundreds of people in New Zealand waiting for organ transplants."

She'd like to see some sort of formal registry of organ donors, which people can opt out of if their beliefs prohibit them from donating.

"I know there are obviously religious and cultural beliefs why people choose not to. I wanted an easy opt-out system for those people to choose not to become donors, as we need to respect their decision and their beliefs."

The development of an official registry would prevent people's families from going against their wishes after they die, she says.

"People with cultural beliefs don't want their organs passed on and their family will respect that, so vice versa, for people who do want to be donors, their family shouldn't be able to go against their wishes.

"I just think we need a permanent registry where you can register to be a donor or not to be a donor. Ticking it on your license doesn’t mean anything. Your family, in a time of grieving, can go against what you want."

She encourages people to talk to their families about what they want to happen to their organs after they die, even if it's an uncomfortable conversation.

"It is a subject that is avoided due to people being afraid to talk about it, it's talking about death and whatnot. But in reality, no one is promised tomorrow, and it is something that needs to be talked about, whether you're a donor or not.

Her petition has been signed by more than 800 people.