Compensation for live organ donors one step closer

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Member’s Bill designed to improve New Zealand’s organ donation rates has today moved one step closer to becoming law with the Health Committee report on the Financial Assistance for Live Organ Donors Bill being presented to the House. The committee has recommended unanimously that MP Chris Bishop’s bill be passed.

“New Zealand needs to improve its organ donation rates,” Mr Bishop, the National List MP based in Hutt South, said.

“There are more than 700 people accepted for a kidney transplant and around 40 people for liver, cardiac or lung transplants. Currently live organ donors are essentially penalised for their altruism, facing a large loss of income while they donate, even though their actions save lives and contribute to a healthier New Zealand.

“The amended Bill provides much stronger support for those live organ donors who donate organs for altruistic reasons. After a thorough process, the Committee has recommended a number of important changes to strengthen the Bill.

“First, donors will be reimbursed at 100 percent of their income for up to 12 weeks during recovery, as in the United Kingdom, rather than the 80 percent recommended in the bill as introduced. Currently live organ donors receive the equivalent of the sickness benefit which is a significant barrier to organ donation. This is a substantial improvement on the status quo and reflects a ‘cost-neutrality’ approach, where donating should neither financially advantage or disadvantage a person.

“Second, responsibility for compensation will shift from the Ministry of Social Development to the Director-General of the Ministry of Health. The committee heard a lot of evidence about the difficulties claimants had when obtaining financial support through MSD. It is more appropriately provided by the Ministry of Health.

“Third, the bill allows for new entitlements be backdated for eligible donors to the date that the bill receives the Royal assent. This will mitigate the risk that people intending to donate would defer the procedure until they became eligible. It also enables the Director-General to pay income compensation to a donor before surgery in limited circumstances.

“Fourthly, the bill affirms that donors receive reimbursement for foregone employment income, regardless of whether they are a beneficiary. Beneficiaries who have had donor surgery will also be exempt from work-test and other similar obligations. This deals with the Bill of Rights Act issues raised by the Attorney-General in his report to the House; by eliminating the unjustified discrimination against beneficiaries who also work.

“Finally, the bill future-proofs organ donation by expanding the set of qualifying organs to include other types of human organs declared by regulations to be a qualifying organ. While currently only kidney and liver transplants are carried out in New Zealand, other types of suitable live-donor transplant are medically possible.

“These changes will make a big difference to many New Zealanders’ lives. I’m very proud that New Zealanders who nobly give up a part of themselves to save the lives of another will soon be fully compensated for their brave actions.

“Along with the Ministry of Health’s review of deceased organ donation, this bill will encourage more people to donate organs and lower the barriers to organ transplants in New Zealand”, says Mr Bishop.

The Bill will likely have its second reading on the next Members’ Day in October and Mr Bishop says he hopes the bill will be passed in to law by the end of the year.

Full the full report click here: