Mr Speaker, I move that the Compensation for Live Organ Donors Bill be now read a third time.
Let me start my speech by explaining how I became interested in issues around organ donation.
In July 2014 I was the new National Party candidate for Hutt South. I held a public meeting at Boulcott’s Farm Golf Club with the Ministers of Education and Health, Hon Hekia Parata and Hon Tony Ryall.
I remember the evening quite distinctly. One of the very first questions was from a woman, who’s here watching tonight, called Sharon van der Gulik.
Sharon was 68. She’d been living with renal failure for more than two years, could barely walk and needed 15 hours of dialysis a week. She was at one point given just two weeks to live and dialysis had become so awful that she could not think of continuing treatment past 70.
By far her best option was a live kidney transplant. She explained to the meeting that only a few weeks ago her 27 year old brave grandson Matt had donated a kidney to her.
But Sharon told the meeting about how tough it was for Matt. He was getting only $206.21 from Work and Income per week. It didn’t cover half his mortgage, and it had been difficult convincing WINZ that Matt was entitled to the money. Sharon herself had had to help keep Matt financially afloat.
Sharon said to us all, surely there has to be a better way. It was hard to argue with that.
I vaguely remembered that Michael Woodhouse had had a member’s bill about this exact issue kicking around for a while. I went and talked to Sharon at the end of the meeting, and said that if I were privileged enough to be elected to Parliament, I’d be interested in taking the issue on.
And of course, I was elected. I was fortunate to inherit the Bill from Dr Cam Calder, who’d taken it over from Michael when he was made a Minister. And I was lucky enough to have the Bill drawn from the biscuit tin soon after being elected.
I want to say thank you to Michael and Cam for their custodianship of the Bill in the past. I know they’re both pleased it will pass its third reading tonight.
I also want to say thank you to the people I’ve talked to over the last eighteen months in our hospitals, health agencies, and communities about this Bill. There are many people out there passionate about increasing our organ donation rates and I know this is a big day for them
There are two main purposes to the Bill.
The first purpose is to more fairly compensate those altruistic New Zealanders who, through the goodness of their hearts, choose to donate an organ to a friend, loved one, or even a stranger.
Live organ donors are heroes.
The current compensation amounts to the equivalent of the sickness benefit and inadequately recognises and supports the hardship that these individuals face when they make the choice to give up an organ in order to save a life.
The second purpose of the bill is to reduce the financial barriers to becoming a live organ donor. One significant barrier to people becoming live organ donors is the financial hardship a donor suffers through lost wages and other associated costs of recovery.
More than 550 New Zealanders are waiting for an organ transplant and approximately 450 of these are waiting for a kidney transplant. People waiting for a heart, lungs or liver may die without a successful transplant while those waiting for a kidney transplant lead lives restricted by long-term dialysis treatment.
The Bill establishes a legislative architecture around a compensation regime for live organ donors. In its original form, the Bill set compensation for lost earnings at 80 percent of foregone income during recuperation, in line with ACC. The Health committee recommended that compensation should instead be set at 100 per cent of lost income.
The Bill adopts a principle of cost neutrality for live organ donors, ie organ donors should be neither financially advantaged nor disadvantaged from their decision to donate. This is the situation in the United Kingdom.
The amount of compensation payable is uncapped in a monetary sense, but is only available for up to twelve weeks. Discretion will also exist for compensation to be paid to a donor before surgery in some circumstances, not just after surgery.
The Bill has been significantly strengthened by the Health Committee, and I thank them for their hard work on the Bill.
The Health committee heard many stories about difficulties claimants had when obtaining financial support through MSD.
There are very currently very few claims for live organ donor assistance through MSD, and front-line staff are often unaware that the provision even exists. The Bill therefore shifts responsibility from MSD to the Director-General of Health.
It is also worth noting that the Bill is future proofed. A provision will allow by Order in Council a regulation declaring a type of human organ to be a qualifying organ.
This means that other types of potentially suitable live-donor transplants which are medically possible and are carried out in other countries (including small bowel, pancreas, and lobular lung transplants), could be eligible in the future.
I believe this Bill will make a difference.
At the moment live organ donors are effectively penalised for their altruism. The Bill ends that unfairness.
The Bill removes a large barrier to organ donation, thus making it more likely that people will donate.
As Agnes van Diepen submitted to the committee – “A 100% contribution… will go a long way towards tipping the balance between donating or not donating.”
Or In the words of Elsie Howard, who donated a kidney to her father,
"You're being penalised for working and then doing this for someone…
"If you want people to step up and donate, make it worth their while. Don't make it so hard to do something for somebody else."
This is not the main of the Bill, but the Bill will save taxpayers money. Research at the University of Canterbury clearly shows that there are large fiscal gains for taxpayers from increased support for organ donors.
Mr Speaker, a caring society recognises sacrifice. A compassionate society supports those in need. This Bill does both those things. I commend it to the House.