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MPs urged to up compensation to boost live organ donation, ahead of vote


Stuff - www.stuff.co.nz 

25 August 2015

The New Zealand Initiative claims increasing payments to organ donors will save the government money and improve lives

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The New Zealand Initiative claims increasing payments to organ donors will save the government money and improve lives

MPs are being urged to increase payments to organ donors, claiming it will save the health system money.

On Tuesday the New Zealand Initiative released a report, Compensation for live organ donors, a day ahead of a private members' bill calling for donors to be paid most of their pre-operation income during recovery.

Drawn from the Master's thesis by Elizabeth Prasad, The New Zealand Initiative said compensating donors could save "both lives and health care dollars".

According to the report if the Ministry of Health would save $120,000 by providing a transplant to a 50-year-old who required it, more for those who were younger. It puts the average cost of each patient on dialysis at more than $60,000 a year. 

However those who opt to donate are only eligible for the sickness benefit, ranging from $140 to $350 per week for 12 weeks.

The New Zealand Initiative Report calls both for an increase in compensation to donors, assisting the families of deceased donors to help cover funeral expenses and giving donors waiting list priority to receive organ donations.

On Wednesday Parliament is likely to have its first vote on the Financial Assistance For Live Organ Donors Bill, a private member's bill from first term National list MP Chris Bishop.

The bill seeks to increase support for donors from the equivalent of the sickness benefit to the equivalent of 80 per cent of the donor's pre-operation earnings, the same formula applied to income support for ACC recipients. Donors would also be eligible for childcare assistance where required.

Bishop said his bill avoided issues such as outright payments for organ donations or waiting list priority as he acknowledged the issues were highly controversial.

"People get worried about the commodification of body parts and there are quite strong views either way. That's a debate you can have, [but] whether or not that would lead to sustainable support for a piece of legislation like I'm trying to do is a different story," Bishop said.

"I've set my bill as a small but useful step to creating an environment where people feel more free than they currently do to donate an organ."

Bishop said there was a need for more money for donors to avoid them being left in hardship, with donors often facing a large loss in income while they recover.

"People are literally sacrificing a piece of their body to save the live of other people and they're basically financially penalised for doing so."

Depending on the progress of David Seymour's legislation to allow bars to open during Rugby World Cup matches in September and October, Parliament is scheduled to have its first vote on Bishop's bill on Wednesday.

He was confident it would progress to a select committee stage, with Labour already indicating it would support the legislation at first reading during the first part of a debate on the bill in July.

 - Stuff

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