22 Sep 2013

Greater public awareness needed on organ donations

4:08 pm on 22 September 2013

Medical specialists say a greater public focus is needed on improving organ donation rates, to save lives.

They say low donation rates, compared to similar countries, are a missed opportunity.

There are nearly 700 people waiting for a kidney transplant that the consumer group Kidney Health New Zealand says some will never receive.

Its medical director Kelvin Lynn says that's because of a rate of donation that's about half the Australian rate.

He says there are hundreds of people whose lives would be substantially improved or saved if they got an organ transplant, with the majority of them needing a kidney transplant.

Many medical specialists agree with campaigner Andy Tookey that greater public awareness is needed.

Mr Tookey says there is nothing to prompt anyone to discuss their wishes with their family and it's important to get people to talk about it before it happens.

Some say more training and support is needed for hospital intensive care units, where deceased donation largely occurs.

But Auckland specialist Ian Dittmer says living donation offers the most scope because there will never be enough deceased donors to cope with the number of organs sought for transplantation.

The Government says it hopes to see an improvement in organ donation rates soon.