Friday 8 June 2012

Small steps towards a better world

It looks like New Zealand will implement a local version of MatchingDonors The Kidney Exchange as part of a push to improve organ donation and transplant figures. They'll also invest in training specialised ICU nurses to talk with families about donation options.

All of this is for the good. Live kidney transplants are pretty safe; living donors sharing a liver lobe also have pretty good outcomes [discussed here]. But few people would be willing to give a kidney or a liver lobe even to a friend given the reasonably large time commitment involved: frequent flights to Auckland for consultations, recovery time post-op. Compensation to living donors is pretty limited. So Matching Donors, which helps route around donor compatibility issues and increase the potential for altruistic donations, can make a big difference.

Israel experienced a big increase in transplant rates when they paired a Matching Donors system with compensation to living donors - expenses plus up to 40 days' lost wages. New Zealand could improve outcomes further here by making it less costly for donors to give organs.

We could do even better by considering things like Israel's priority law, which complements a binding organ donor registry with priority access to organs for those willing to be organ donors. Or, by requiring that transplant surgeons respect the wishes of members of LifeSharers: organ donors who prefer that first call on their organs goes to other organ donors.

We don't have to go all the way to complete markets in organs to improve outcomes. I'm glad New Zealand's taking a step in the right direction. Other useful steps:
My prior posts on organ donation are on the "Organ markets" tag; some of them are linked above.


  1. If I had any need for a will, I'd include a provision that my organs should be sold for $1 each. Should any sale be legally prevented, I would request that that organs in question be harvested and burned in front of desperate potential transplant patients. (I'll have to make sure I'm not accused of having unsound mind, though). If that is also prevented, I would donate a large sum of money to fund a negative ad campaign against the incumbent Minister of Health.

    1. Read Lloyd Cohen's declaration.

  2. Good to see this article in the news and now you posting on it :)

    Excellent news to hear that things are taking a step forward finally instead of backwards/no where.

    Good on this health minister.

    I also mentioned this to the ethics lecturer who was glad to see this change to.


  3. Also has a certain tv add been mentioned to a certain health minster?

    Might be a bit more appreciated now

  4. Are you talking of my organ donor ad Erik?
    I haven't mentioned it to him recently but now you mention it I may email it to him again. The ad was paid for by Peter (Sir) Jackson. I offered it for free to the MOH but they turned it down.

  5. Indeed Andy.

    I guess that was a different health minster? In 2007 it would have been the labour parties health minister?

    Or at a later date you offered it again?