Doctors face disease dilemma

Last updated 05:00 17/12/2012

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New Zealand's health system will need to find new ways of dealing with the growing number of people suffering from kidney disease, two retiring Christchurch kidney specialists say.

Professors Kelvin Lynn and John Morton will retire from Christchurch Hospital during the next month.

Both have worked with kidney disease patients for more than 40 years.

Both started their careers when kidney transplantation and dialysis were being developed.

Morton said kidney failure was becoming increasingly prevalent because of increasing rates of diabetes.

Lynn said diabetes was often seen as being caused by people being lazy or having the wrong diet, but it was "much more complicated than that".

Maori and Pacific Islanders were most at risk from the diseases, and health professionals needed to learn new ways of communicating with them, he said.

He said doctors were also faced with the dilemma of whether treating those with kidney failure, who were often elderly, was beneficial.

"I think there's going to be a lot more focus, not so much on the length of life, but the quality of life.

"It's about knowing what's the best for people who are at the end of their life," he said.

"Healthcare is expensive. I think we have to be honest about how much money it takes, [but] if it's going to provide good things for people, then it's worth it."

He hoped new technology and research would help ease the pressure.

Morton and Lynn both studied at the University of Otago.

Morton, 77, helped establish and lead Christchurch's kidney transplant programme in the 1970s.

He retired from surgery in 1996 after a stroke.

He then became the professional adviser to the resident medical officers unit.

Lynn, who grew up in Christchurch, worked at London's Charing Cross Hospital for two years before returning to Christchurch.

"I decided I wanted to be a doctor when I was quite young.

"I was quite impressed with the work of our family doctor."

He originally planned to become a pediatrician, but was convinced by mentor Dr Ross Bailey to become a kidney specialist.

After retiring, the 65-year-old will continue working as the medical director for Kidney Health New Zealand, an advocacy and information body for people with kidney disease.

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- The Press

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