Compensation for Live Organ Donors
Today’s unanimous cross-party support for the Compensation for Live Organ Donors Bill represents a critical step in reducing the burgeoning waiting list for kidney donations, according to Kidney Health New Zealand chief executive Max Reid.
“The Bill effectively removes what is known to be one of the single greatest barriers to live organ donation in NZ,” Mr Reid says. “Until now the level of financial assistance (based on the sickness benefit) has been insufficient to cover even an average mortgage repayment, and the process required to access that support both cumbersome and demeaning. The two major changes that this legislation introduces – increasing compensation to 100% of lost income, and transferring responsibility for the management of that financial assistance being moved from WINZ to the Ministry of Health – will unquestionably remove two major disincentives that exist within the current regime.”
“For the more than more than 700 kidney patients currently on transplant waiting list that grows by hundred each year, this legislation will make a huge difference. For someone on dialysis, a kidney transplant will quite literally give them their life back. Following a kidney transplant, patients live longer, and they and their family will live a better and fuller life than was ever possible before.
“The challenge now,” according to Mr Reid, “is to increase New Zealand’s woefully low rate of deceased organ donation.
“This is a more challenging task,” Mr Reid suggests, “given the more complex ethical aspects associated with deceased organ donation. The current review of deceased organ donation practices and policy in New Zealand, initiated earlier last year by the Minister of Health – and to which Kidney Health New Zealand continues to contribute – continues to wrestle with some of these key issues. Should New Zealand follow the lead of such countries as Spain, for example (which has one of the highest rates of deceased organ donation) when their approach to organ donation is much more coercive than many other countries, and their transplant success rate significantly lower? Should New Zealand replace its current drivers’ licence system of donor registration with a stand-alone register, as some other countries have? Again, this is debateable, as the uptake of stand-alone registers is significantly lower than the level of donor registration our current registration system has secured.
“All the evidence for increasing rates of deceased organ donation,” Mr Reid suggests, “points to the absolute importance of an individual’s family and friends being aware of (and respecting) their decision to be an organ donor. The international evidence is clear and unequivocal: even when a person has not formally registered their wish to be an organ donor, if their family is aware of their intention, in the overwhelming majority of cases that individual’s wishes will be respected.
“Talk to your loved ones. Have that conversation. There’s every chance it may well save someone else’s life.”
Kidney Health NZ (formally the Kidney Foundation) is a national organisation supporting kidney patients and their families by way of education, advocacy and research across all areas of kidney health - including organ donation and transplant, dialysis, early detection and prevention of chronic kidney disease. For further information or advice, contact the Kidney Health Helpline – 0800 KIDNEYS (543 639)