4 Dec 2017

Organ donor: "I will receive 100% of my loss of earnings"

10:13 am on 4 December 2017

People who are willing and able to donate a kidney or part of a liver will receive financial help from tomorrow.

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Photo: 123RF

There are about 700 New Zealanders on a waiting list for kidneys and about 70 needing a liver transplant.

It can be a long and difficult wait, with just 82 live kidney donors last year, and 61 deceased donors who gave organs and tissues.

An Aucklander, Liz Alexander, knew immediately after watching a TV documentary that she had to help out.

"I turned around to my husband and I said: 'I could do that'. And he goes: 'I know, you could'. And so that was on a Sunday night and on the Monday morning I woke up and I thought: Right I am going to do this, this is what I want to do. It's the right thing to do."

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Liz Alexander knew that she wanted to help out as soon as she saw a TV documentary about organ donation. Photo: Supplied

Mrs Alexander went through the necessary careful clinical assessments and this year became a live kidney donor at age 49.

The coffee-cart barista will now receive backdated compensation under the Compensation for Live Organ Donors Act, which takes effect tomorrow.

"I will receive 100 percent of my loss of earnings over that time period. It does not include my travel to and from the hospital or for tests, but it does include my loss of earnings and takings over that time period."

Mrs Alexander doesn't have children and has the wrong blood type to be a donor for her husband should it ever be needed.

Being one of the 1967 Alexander quads, she joked she has three back-up kidneys herself, if needed, but stresses that was not a factor.

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Liz is one of the Alexander quadruplets who were born in 1967. Photo: Supplied

Live donors have been able to get some financial help through the Ministry of Social Development if they didn't use their paid annual or sick leave, or if they took paid leave that was less than their normal pay.

The new scheme goes further - providing 100 percent of lost income from the day of surgery and for up to 12 weeks while recovering.

To be eligible donors must forgo earnings, not be unemployed - a point Auckland transplant specialist, Ian Dittmer, said was important.

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Ian Dittmer Photo: Supplied

"Internationally it's accepted by most transplant units that people should not be paid to give a kidney or to give a portion of their liver, and so we would not want to be giving people money that they weren't getting otherwise. So I think that compensation is the better way to look at it."

Dr Dittmer said donors make a significant commitment to help someone else - whether they know the recipient or not.

"Those people have to come into hospital and spend three or four days in hospital and then four or five weeks recovering afterwards.

"So there's financial burden for people doing that. They're not going to have income coming in and they still have to continue with their day to day expenses, paying the mortgage."

A Health Ministry manager, Clare Perry, said the scheme had been designed to provide what donors had said they needed most.

"The most important thing was to target the funding to the area where they found they had the most impact and barriers, and that was where they were needing to take unpaid leave or cease employment in some cases in order to make a donation."

She said the scheme should help boost live organ donations.

"The interesting thing is that about three-quarters of live organ donors are in the core earning age group of 25 to 65 years of age, so they'll potentially benefit from compensation because of that earning age group."

The ministry has set aside $700,000 for the scheme this financial year.

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