First the good. Amy Maas quotes me on New Zealand's organ donation shortfalls:
I'd also told Amy about Israel's priority system, but there wasn't room in the piece. I'm to have been on with Paul Henry on organ donation very early Monday morning (6:50!).
Meanwhile, over in the Sunday-Star Times, Adam Dudding didn't seem to like my take on coroner recommendations:
A young girl dies of an unpredictable complication of pneumonia. A coroner reports the usual, awful, clinical details – "oxygen saturation", "intro-axial haemorrhage", "brain stem death testing" – but something else as well: There are references to the "cold, damp" state house that Emma-Lita Bourne was living in when she fell ill late in the winter of 2014; to the buckets under the leak in the hallway ceiling of the South Auckland home; to the heater unused because of unaffordable electricity, to the older sibling with rheumatic fever.First off, all credit for that post should go to the University of Canterbury rather than the NZ Initiative; I was on faculty there until July of 2014.
And there is this line in the findings: "Whether the cold living conditions of the house became a contributing factor to the circumstances of Emma-Lita's death cannot be excluded."
It's an understated phrase, but the reaction was anything but. Since the publication of Coroner Brandt Shortland's report there has been an explosion of news coverage, breast-beating and finger-pointing, and fresh recognition that poverty in New Zealand is a real thing that kills people. Once again a coroner has lit a fuse then quietly stood back.
Telling the public what went wrong and what can be done better is in a coroner's job description, yet they're not always thanked for it. In 2013, Eric Crampton, a researcher at business thinktank the New Zealand Initiative, blogged a list of recent coronial recommendations, presumably so his readers could sneer at their wackiness ("warning labels on Coke"; "national manhole safety guidelines"; "hard hats when climbing ladders"; "mandatory high-vis clothing for cyclists"), then suggested coroners get training in cost-benefit analysis before making silly, expensive suggestions.
The "Coroner Recommends" list came entirely from Google. But I put the blame for wackiness where it belongs: with the Act. Coroners have to point out anything that might reduce the chances of the occurrence of other deaths in circumstances similar to those in which the death occurred, regardless of whether the recommendations make any darned sense. Sensible coroner recommendations might be given more weight if there were fewer recommendations like wanting every farm house to be fenced off from the yard.