As a lucky recipient of a beautiful healthy new kidney myself, generously donated by my wonderful sister-in-law last year, I know full well the guilt one feels at the sacrifices, physically, emotionally and financially, donors go through to enable them to help save someone’s life.
It's the ultimate gift, and it's long bothered me that successive New Zealand governments have failed to address the financial hit live kidney donors take when they not only go through months of invasive physical and psychological examinations to assess their fitness and motives for giving a kidney, but also the financial loss suffered from the six to eight weeks of post-operative recovery required.
Until now, donors have only been able to apply for a temporary WINZ benefit, a paltry couple of hundred dollars per week, equal to the sickness benefit, to sustain them through the average two months of recovery.
It's nothing like enough to compensate most donors, many of whom have mortgages to pay, children to clothe and feed and other bills to juggle.
Kidney doctors tell me that many donors are spouses of the patient needing the new kidney, which makes the two month minimum loss of income even more severe.
Not only are spouses often coming from a situation of low household income due to their ill husband or wife having been hooked up to dialysis for months or years unable to work, but having such a paltry income post-surgery themselves only adds insult to injury.
It makes the decision to donate a kidney even more challenging than it needs to be, hence New Zealand's woefully poor kidney donor organ rate. It's a clear disincentive.
So the news today that the Health Select Committee has recommended to Parliament that live organ donors be fully reimbursed for lost income during their period of recovery is gratifying to hear.
Kidney Health New Zealand's Max Reid says he’s "over the moon" about it, understandably so, as he and his colleagues have battled for this for many years.
"That the Health Select Committee was unanimous in its recommendation to Parliament that not only should the Financial Assistance for Live Organ Donors Bill be passed, but substantially amended is great news, as New Zealand continues to struggle with low live and deceased organ donation rates by international standards," Mr Reid said.
"The Health Select Committee's recommendation that the new system provide not only 100% compensation for lost income, but that responsibility for managing that system now sit with the Ministry of Health is a major step forward in terms of removing the well-evidenced barriers to live organ donation."
Kidney Health New Zealand commends National List MP Chris Bishop for his tenacity in pursuing his Private Member's Bill through the Health Select Committee, as well as the Health Select Committee itself for its unanimous recommendation and the clear message that sends to both Parliament and the New Zealand public.
Yes. Good on them both.
Lets hope the Ministry of Health moves to implement this recommendation in a timely manner. And lets hope it now encourages more Kiwis to act, as my sister-in-law did, to bravely and unselfishly step forward to give someone the gift of life.