1 Dec 2016

New law gives financial assistance to organ donors

8:00 pm on 1 December 2016

Parliament has passed legislation to give financial assistance to organ donors while they recover.

The members' bill, in the name of the National MP Chris Bishop, provides 100 percent of the donor's earnings for up to 12 weeks after the operation plus childcare assistance for those who need it while they recover.


Surgery Photo: 123RF

Matt van der Gulik donated a kidney to his grandmother Sharon and is delighted with the news.

"The financial burden is no longer an issue and hopefully more people will be able to do it to help their loved ones, and even strangers."

When Mr van der Gulik was off work recovering from the operation, he received $200 a week in financial assistance from Work and Income and his grandparents were also able to offer him financial support.

"I was a new homeowner, I had my own life, had insurances, all the normal expenses everyone else does, but $200 just did not cut it.

"I was lucky to have that assistance, but there are a lot of people who don't have that ability or are not in the financial position to be able to help someone to do it," he said.

His grandmother approached Mr Bishop at a golf course, and asked him to look into getting the law changed. She didn't feel it was right for donors to be out of pocket for their generosity.

The recovery period for an organ donor is typically four to twelve weeks, during which time they are not allowed to work. Mr Bishop said it was an enormous financial sacrifice.

His bill was passed unanimously in Parliament today and Mr Bishop said that was due to the obvious benefits of providing full financial support to donors.

While the financial benefits of the law were not the main motivating factor for passing this bill, Mr Bishop said they were hard to ignore.

"It will actually save the government money, because dialysis is extraordinarily expensive for the health system to provide.

"The more people we can get having live organ donations, the more people we can get off dialysis and back leading healthy and productive lives, and paying tax obviously."

Evidence showed that the best way of increasing the rate of deceased-donor donations was to change the culture and behaviour of doctors in hospitals, Mr Bishop said.

He said he wanted more doctors explaining the benefits of organ donation to patients' family members, who would ultimately decide whether or not their loved one's organs would be donated.

What is written on your driver's licence is not legally binding, Mr Bishop said, and he encouraged those willing to be an organ donor to have that conversation with family.

"It's really important you tell your family members, because they're the people that the doctors go to."

Mr van der Gulik was pleased he and his grandmother were able to make a difference for anyone wishing to become a donor in the future.

"We've changed New Zealand and we've now made it an equal playing field so anyone can donate."

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