Queenstown leads offers of organs

Double-lung recipient Lachie McLachlan (65), of Mosgiel, is thankful to the anonymous donor and their family for his second chance. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Double-lung recipient Lachie McLachlan (65), of Mosgiel, is thankful to the anonymous donor and their family for his second chance. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Queenstown-lakes District residents are more likely to indicate yes to organ donation on their driver's licence than any other New Zealand district.

New Zealand Transport Agency data revealed 66.2% of driver's licence-holders at the end of June in Queenstown-Lakes District had indicated yes to organ donation.

The next most willing district was Wellington City with 62%.

The two districts with the fewest indicating yes were Wairoa (31.4%) and Kawerau (33.7%).

Donation NZ clinical director Dr Stephen Streat said the major driver of people indicating yes was socio-economic status.

A Canadian study revealed the richer a person was, the more likely they were to indicate yes, Dr Streat said.

''I guess the people in Queenstown have plenty of money.''

More than 1.75 million people indicated yes on their licence - 52.7% of licence-holders - and there were 36 deceased organ donors in New Zealand last year.

Historically, most donations were from people who had received brain injuries in a vehicle accident, but road safety education had resulted in several hundred fewer deaths, Dr Streat said.

Now most donors died from spontaneous bleeding in the brain from a ruptured blood vessel, but fewer people smoking cigarettes and better treatment meant fewer deaths and donors.

About 30,000 people died annually in New Zealand but fewer than 100 under circumstances allowing organ donation.

''You need to die in an intensive care unit, as a result of a severe brain injury, and be on a ventilator.''

The family of the dead person could decline the donation and about half of the families of eligible donors accepted, he said.

Donation NZ actively discouraged contact between the donor family and organ recipient because of the ''great potential for harm''.

''It has a real potential to be damaging to both the donor family and the recipient in various ways.''

However, if there was mutual consent, Donation NZ facilitated a letter exchange without identifying information.

Real estate agent Lachie McLachlan (65), of Mosgiel, said he had a double lung transplant after being diagnosed in 2011 with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis - scarring or thickening of the lungs without a known cause.

The disease made him wheelchair-bound and a frequent visitor to hospitals in Dunedin and Auckland.

He was given months to live and had booked a bed at Otago Community Hospice when he was told ''healthy'' lungs had become available.

''If I didn't have that transplant when I had it I was facing death in two or three weeks.''

He was thankful to the donor allowing him ''another chance'' and to their family for approving the donation.

shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

 


The willing

Motorists whose licences say ''yes'' to be organ donors in the event of death

District                                         %

Queenstown-Lakes                     66.2%

Dunedin                                       59.1%

Central Otago                              58.2%

Southland                                    56.8%

Gore                                            54.9%

Waimate                                      53.9%

Clutha                                          53.8%

Invercargill                                   53.4%

Source: NZTA