Hui called to address organ transplant issues

By D'Angelo Martin

Māori are more likely to suffer from renal failure and diabetes, yet they're the least likely to undergo organ transplants. In the Hawkes Bay more than 70% of the population receiving dialysis are Maori and to increase awareness around donating and receiving organs a hui was held in the region today to better inform health providers and iwi organisations. 

Wikitoria Smith from Ngāti Kahungunu shared her story in the hope it could help change the perception of many Māori.

"Six years ago since I lost my son and because he was quite fit and quite healthy he rarely drank and he didn't smoke so they were very healthy organs. And what I heard is that they went to help ten other people have a better life."

The main purpose of the hui is to listen to people sharing their lived experience of transplant. To generate discussions between whānau and health providers to address the misinformation out there about transplants.

"It was my decision, and I consulted with my family who at the time was my nieces and nephews and mokos. I consulted with them but ultimately the decision was mine and it was something that I had to live with."

Merryn Jones called the hui after her research suggested there was a lack of information provided around organ transplant for Māori.

"We may not look sick, so again people don't know that we need a kidney so how do we bring it up? How do we even bring this up with people. Many of the people I interviewed said we might only have one shot at asking that question."

Dr Curtis Walker, a renal and general physician says the current transplanting system poorly supports Māori, and recommends reevaluation.

"I think we need to take in to account the reality that Māori has higher health disease burdens and that negatively effects our score. So I think we need to honestly look at that score and weigh that score so that it provides equitable outcomes for Māori because currently not getting enough transplants."

Jones adds, "With a focus on Māori tikanga and where organ donation and transplant might sit in a modern world but with a historical view point."

Smith concludes, "If he was to be cremated that those perfectly good organs were going to be waste, maumau."

The aim moving forward, is to have more discussion around organ transplant and to better improve the Māori statistics around this issue.