By Dave Williams
Live organ donors are heroes and the Government should be stepping up their compensation for more to come forward, Parliament's health select committee has been told.
Donors are currently only paid the equivalent of a sickness benefit - between $140 and $350 a week for 12 weeks - but National MP Chris Bishop's member's bill seeks to increase that to 80 percent of the average wage, or about $850 a week.
On Wednesday, Parliament's health select committee was told lowering the financial burden will encourage more people to become live donors. Some wanted 100 percent compensation, or more, for donors' costs.
Donors not only faced a loss of income while they recovered, but also had to pay when they underwent the required barrage of hospital tests and for travel and accommodation costs.
"Willing donors either don't come forward or withdraw from evaluation when the financial impact is realised," said Live Kidney Donation Aotearoa's Denise Beechey.
The highest rate of organ offers came from spouses, but couples often decided both couldn't be out of work at the same time, she said.
Nick Cross, clinical director of the National Renal Transplantation Service, says donors are heroes and should not be out of pocket.
Poorer people would be more affected, could not take a lot of time off work and therefore might decide against it, he said.
Wellington's Oliver Ibbetson says without his kidney donation he never would have won a Prime Minister's Scholarship to study in Taiwan.
"[Donors] are, in my view, community heroes. They do save the government money but they also save a life and they give the opportunity for other people to contribute to the community."
Napier's Kerryn Yule donated a kidney three years ago. She had to use advanced annual leave, sick leave and unpaid leave to take five weeks off.
"Sadly, many prospective donors are not in the privileged position I was in.
"If a potential donor is not in a financial position to foot the bill themselves, if they do not have extended family to support them financially they will simply not donate."
New Zealand Initiative research suggests the Government would, in some cases, save up to $120,000 in medical costs per operation if patients could have transplants, rather than continuing treatment such as dialysis.