Human Tissue Bill – Health Committee


This submission is from the Humanist Society of New Zealand. The Humanist Society of New Zealand (Inc.) represents the interests of non-theistic people in New Zealand. We seek to build a more humane society based on human and other natural values. New Zealand census figures indicate that approximately a third of the population has no religious belief.

Our organisation is an affiliated member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) with nearly 100 member organisations worldwide. This represents about 5 million members.


The Humanist Society of New Zealand supports many aspects of the Human Tissue Bill. We believe that it should be illegal to obtain human tissue by the use of theft, force, or coercion.

However, the Society objects to the Bill introducing cultural and spiritual rights for families, which could be used to take away the right to choose. It can mean that someone’s decision to donate organs is ignored if one of their religious relatives objects. In this Bill a donor has no freedom of religion or belief, but everyone should have these types of rights as specified in the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

We would support the establishment of a donation register within which people can document their legally binding wishes in terms of organ donation. This would be an improvement on the current situation with drivers licences, where someone’s decision to donate can be violated by relatives differing beliefs.

The Society would encourage the use of public information campaigns to increase organ donation rates in New Zealand. Generally, much could be learnt from other countries where the donation frequency can be almost four times the rate that we currently have in New Zealand.

The Society considers that for some types of tissue donation, that it would be ethical to reimburse a nominal amount to donors to help cover their costs.

Many Humanists believe that they have a responsibility to allow organ donation after their death, if this leads to helping someone else. We recommend that people donate organs after death and blood while alive, for the benefit of others.