Reports that Jonah Lomu may soon get a kidney transplant courtesy of a close friend is welcome news to organ donor reform campaigner Andy Tookey.
"There is the possibility that the kidney can be transplanted higher up, giving it more protection, if it means Jonah can go back to playing rugby it would show everyone what a dramatic difference to a persons life a transplant can mean, and may encourage more people to consider organ donation." says Tookey.
The yearly waiting list for kidney transplants is around 380 people. Dialysis for each patient costs $60,000 a year. Part of Tookey's two year long campaign was to get the government to consider compensation for live donors. Though the government has recently announced changes to the organ donation system it has not yet considered payment for live donors.
" Jonah's potential donor may be in the fortunate position of being able to afford to take time off work and pay for transport costs etc, unfortunately not everyone who would like to donate their kidney can afford the time off work and all the other expenses that go with it. It would put immense pressure on a family member if they knew that they were compatible but through being self employed or in a job where they couldn't just up and go for a few months. They wouldn't need the added stress of worrying of how they were going to feed the children or pay the mortgage." says Tookey.
Most New Zealand transplant surgeons and kidney specialists supported a $10,000 payment to donors for compensation for costs and suffering.
In Iraq there is no waiting list for kidney transplants because there is a payment system of the equivalent of $20,000.
Tookey supports the system being highly regulated to ensure that "we don't go down the slippery slope of 'organs for sale. I have proposed that it will be only available to family and close friends who will then undergo psychiatric and medical tests. This system is already in place in other civilised countries with no problems" he says.
Otago School of Medicine's professor of medical ethics Grant Gillett said he saw no ethical problems in reimbursing compassionate donors.
"There doesn't seem to be ethical concerns in other countries that I have researched." says Tookey, "So I don't know why New Zealand has to keep re-inventing the wheel? What is ethical about leaving people languishing to die on the transplant waiting list?"
Tookey, who runs GiveLife NZ a non profit
organisation in Auckland is trying to bolster support from
the public through his website http://www.givelife.org.nz