3 Apr 2019

Bill to encourage more organ donations

From The House , 6:55 pm on 3 April 2019

The marquee bill in Parliament this week was the proposed ban on some firearms, but that was not the only thing happening in the House.

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The House in session. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Beside gun control Tuesday included debate on five other bills. There was:

The Organ Donors and Related Matters Bill passed its first reading on Tuesday which means it will now go to the Health Select Committee for four to six months.

The bill is in the name of the Minister of Health David Clark but Attorney General David Parker spoke first on his behalf.

“The bill encourages and supports live organ donation,” he said.

“In the future, we will also want to make it easy for New Zealanders to make their deceased organ donation wishes known to family and whānau, and to help those involved in those decisions with the best possible support and confidence.”

Attorney-General David Parker

Attorney General David Parker speaks to media before heading into the debating chamber. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

The bill will amend multiple Acts but will do two main things:

  • create an agency overseeing organ donation by expanding the role of the New Zealand Blood Service

  • adjust the compensation available for live donors particularly those who return to work part-time or donate overseas

Labour MP Louisa Wall said statistics of donations over the past few years reveal the need for more donors.

“This is relevant to 550 New Zealanders; that's the number of people on the waiting list now for transplants,” she said.

“It's been interesting if you look at, I guess, this whole area since 2013, when there were only 36 donors—in 2014 there were 46 donors, in 2015 there were 53 donors, in 2016 there were 61 donors, and in 2017, which is the last stats, there were 73 donors, but those 73 donors helped 215 individuals.”

Labour MP and chair of the Health Committee Louisa Wall

Labour MP Louisa Wall chairing the Health Select Committee which will consider this bill. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

New Zealand First MP Jenny Marcroft said cultural issues should be kept in mind.

“To give the gift of life is the most selfless gift you can possibly give, and organ donations are actually a very sensitive issue, a very emotive issue, and in a New Zealand we have around 200 or so ethnicities. Each ethnicity has its own cultural practice that must be respected and understood.”

New Zealand First MP Jenny Marcroft on the Maori Affairs Select Committee

  New Zealand First MP Jenny Marcroft Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Other MPs had personal stories of the impact organ donations can have.

“Some years ago, around the Christmas period, a neighbour of mine needed a liver transplant,” said National MP Maggie Barry.

“A young man had had a car accident and so my neighbour was shaved and sedated and wheeled in but, by the time the family had discussed whether the organ should in fact be donated—because that's what the young man had written on his driver's licence—the organ had passed its ability to be useful.”

National MP Maggie Barry supports National MP Amy Adams as she announces she will stand for National Party leader.

National MP Maggie Barry Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

“So it was wasted, and I'll never forget having a conversation with my neighbour, who was very upset indeed. He went through that process three times.”

Compensation for live donors will also be affected by the bill. Currently organ donors can receive compensation for up to 12 weeks while they recover from donor surgery but stop being eligible if they return to work on reduced hours.

“The bill amends the Compensation for Live Organ Donors Act 2016 to allow compensation to be paid to donors who choose to return to work for reduced hours during the recuperation period or return to work and subsequently reduce their hours due to the effect of surgery,” said Mr Parker.

Green MP Gareth Hughes chairing the Justice and Electoral Select Committee

Green MP Gareth Hughes Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

The Bill will also make changes to compensation for donors even if the surgery is undertaken overseas provided it’s an approved organ donation.

There's an important caveat to this, that this is only in approved organ donation examples. But for Kiwis that have to go overseas, this is going to make a huge difference,” said Green MP Gareth Hughes.

The opportunity for the public to submit their views on the bill will be available through Parliament’s website.