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After death wishes and your family

29 May 2022 | Maddy Currie
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Organ donation and donating your body to science are two options available to New Zealanders for when they pass away. Many of us do not know exactly what is involved and how to best record these wishes. This article looks at how to do so.

Organ donations:

Many New Zealanders choose to be organ donors upon their death. When you apply for, or renew, your driver's licence, you can indicate if you would like to be a donor and have this printed on your licence. Keep in mind, that this is not an official organ donation register and there actually isn’t an official register in New Zealand.

There is only a small window of time to donate organs after you pass. This is often only a few hours, so if organ donation is something that is important to you, you need to have a conversation with your family about your wishes so they can promptly carry them out. It is also important to discuss what organs you want to donate and any restrictions you will have regarding donation, as your family will need to complete a written consent form for the organs and tissues they are comfortable with donating. It is also useful to record this wish in your Will and advance care directive, so your family are reminded that this is your Wish. As your Will is often not read for a few days after you’ve passed (usually when the executor contacts your lawyer) it may also be useful to provide a copy of your Will to your direct family member or executor so they can raise your wishes early on while donation is still possible. Your family will have the ultimate decision if your organs are to be donated and keeping them informed of your wishes is critical to them being carried out.

What support can your family receive?

Many of us have concerns that our family may struggle to carry out our wishes and donate our organs. Fortunately, Organ Donation New Zealand provide extensive support for families of donors. This includes a donor co-ordinator for Organ Donation New Zealand meeting the family prior to the donation and answering any questions they may have. Your family receives a letter of thanks that includes general information about the recipients, and they can contact the co-ordinator at any time to find out the progress of the recipients even years later.

Donating your body to science

You can choose to donate your body to science, your body could be used for teaching anatomy to medical, dental, physiotherapy, physical education, and science students or for research purposes beneficial to advancing health care and scientific knowledge.

Unlike donating organs donating your body to science requires you to register and fill out specific forms depending on which University you are donating your body to.

How can I record I want my body to be donated?

The donation of bodies is governed by the Human Tissue Act 2008. Under the Act, you are required to have dual signed consent to donate your body. This means that you and an immediate family member must consent to the donation. If there is no living immediate family member to act as dual signatory, the donation cannot be accepted. Once you have completed this consent form you should record your wish in your Will or advance care directive and specify which university you have consented your body to. This will assist your donation being carried out. Again, there are tight timeframes on when your body can be donated (your body needs to be specially embalmed within 24 hours), so having your wishes and the details of your donation recorded in your key legal documents will assist your family in carrying out these instructions within the required time frames.

 The key takeaways from this article are to discuss your wishes with your family. Whether it is to donate your organs, your body or if you have specific burial requests record these in your Will and advance care directive and keep your executors and family updated as to those wishes.

If you need to update your Will to record these wishes or make an advance care directive get in contact with the Life Law team at Godfreys Law and we can help you ensure your wishes are recorded. 

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Article by:

Maddy Currie


Maddy joined Godfreys in March 2022, wanting to work in a smaller firm to have the opportunity to advance her interests in Life Law and to gain experience in a variety of areas.

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