Conditions and Approval Procedures of Organ Donations (Kidneys and Liver) from Live Donors
New Zealand adopted guidelines for live organ donors formulated with the agreement of surgeons and doctors from 40 countries at a forum that convened in April 2004.
According to these guidelines, the conditions for organ donations are: receipt of a full medical and psychological evaluation of the donor and receipt of his consent of his own free will granted after he was informed of all the details and ramifications of the transplant, and after he understood all the information presented to him.
The procedure of evaluating potential donors prior to a transplant operation is conducted in four district health boards (DHB) – three districts deal in kidney transplants and one deals in liver transplants. The boards publish information booklets for potential donors and loan videocassettes that contain all the necessary information.
The evaluation procedure usually spans several months during which the potential donor meets with a doctor that specializes in kidneys or liver (and who is not the recipient’s doctor), with a surgeon that performs transplants, with a social worker and with a psychiatrist or psychologist. At every stage of the evaluation process the potential health implications – physical and mental – are discussed with the potential donor and his right to rescind his decision to donate is continuously underscored.
With respect to kidney transplants, one district health board demands a psychiatric evaluation from all potential donors, while the other two boards only require a psychological evaluation with respect to altruistic donors (for example individuals donating a kidney to a recipient they do not know), or to donors that the accompanying doctors have concerns about their motive to donate. The law in New Zealand prohibits the sale and purchase of organs for transplants in exchange for payment. With respect to live organ donations – the government of New Zealand recently approved the provision of financial assistance to donors for a period of up to six weeks after the transplant operation.
Agreement to Donate Organs after Death
According to the Human Tissue Act – 1964, an individual is entitled to express in writing his agreement to donate his organs after his death. Similar to the law in Britain, even if an individual expressed his desire in writing that his body or some of his organs would be donated after his death to science or research – the person granted legal possession of the donor’s body is authorized to agree to donate organs from the body for transplant purposes. In the event the individual did not express his consent in writing to donate his organs after his death, the law permits the individual that received legal possession of the body to use the deceased’s organs for transplant, if required, provided there is no reason to believe that the deceased’s spouse or other family members oppose this.
Notwithstanding, the current practice is that the deceased’s family will be required, in any case, to grant its consent to donate the deceased’s organs, even if in his lifetime he expressed agreement to donate his organs.
In New Zealand, organ donation after death is anonymous and unconditional; in other words, it is illegal for an individual or his family to express their agreement to donate the individual’s organs only to a specific individual, or only to an individual of a certain age, sex or race.
Draft legislation will be submitted in the near future by the Minister of Health that will institutionalize the framework of the consent required for a transplant and formulate guidelines for using, preserving and disposing organs and tissues of deceased individuals.
The Human Tissue Act – 1964 does not specify special requirements with respect to minors and individuals with mental disorders, however the legal community has raised the need to define the consent required with respect to these two groups.
The law in New Zealand prohibits the sale and purchase of transplant organs in exchange for payment.
As for organ donations from the living – the government of New Zealand recently approved granting financial assistance to donors for a period of up to six weeks after the transplant operation.