Organ donors should ensure their families are aware of their wishes but donation should not be mandatory, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

"I do favour an increase in organ donation, absolutely," she said today.

Ardern, who is a donor, said people who were donors needed to ensure their families were aware of their wishes and fulfilled that wish.

"Even though there are limited circumstances in which organ donation is favourable and an option, we need to make sure that when that happens and someone says they want to be, that that isn't overturned," Ardern told Newstalk ZB.


The Government was doing some work to increase organ donation rates but mandatory donation was not part of that.

"Mandatory isn't part of that because we do need to listen to people's own personal desires."

Jessica Manning, 25, is petitioning the Government to make organ donation mandatory due to the low number of donors.

Manning has been has been told she will die within two years if she does not have a double organ transplant.

She was born with six heart conditions - a double inlet left ventricle, hypoplastic right ventricle, atrial septal defect, ventricular septal defect, transposition of the great arteries and leaky valves - and in 2016 discovered she had severe liver disease as a side effect of one of her many heart surgeries.

"Even if the law doesn't change it, it will get people talking about it. Not a lot of people do talk about becoming donors and stuff unless it's on the licence and what not. So as long as it got the conversation started I was happy," Manning told the Herald.

In New Zealand, even if someone indicates on their drivers' licence they want to be a donor, their family can override the decision.

Manning is pushing for a model which means people would be presumed to be donors unless they opted out. But even if that did not go ahead, Manning urged the Government to invest in more education about being organ donation.


Even though the number of people donating organs in New Zealand had doubled over the last five years, Organ Donation NZ said more were still needed.

On average there were 550 people waiting for an organ transplant at any one time and the largest and longest wait list was for kidneys.

Health Minister David Clark said premium consent was not a model he would be pushing and instead supported the Deceased Organ Donation and Transplantation National strategy that focused on the wishes of the donor's family.

"Even if an individual makes it clear before their death that they wish to donate their organs, in New Zealand that person's family/whānau have the absolute right to decline donation of their deceased loved one's organs, and their decision must be respected," he said.

Clark said there had been an increase in organ donation in recent years in New Zealand supported by a range of new initiatives and he planned to announce more progress later this year.

Organ Donation New Zealand medical specialist James Judson said presumed consent would not be the "quick fix" to New Zealand's perceived organ shortage and instead he believed the key was better education.

"Further increases in deceased organ donation in NZ will require further work with ICU staff and their hospitals, work that ODNZ is already doing within its current resources."
Judson also encouraged New Zealanders to discuss whether they wanted to be donors and what organs or tissues they would donate.