Organ donor law success for first term MP

The Member’s Bill put forward by rookie National list MP Chris Bishop, providing for financial assistance for organ donors, has passed into law. This is part due to the luck of the draw but it is also a success for the hard working Bishop.

First term MPs have quite varying profiles.

Many seem to disappear into Parliament, hardly to be heard of again. Some of them bail out without standing again, like ex-Palmerston North mayor and National list MP Jono Naylor who announced recently he was opting out.

Some make an early impact and fade. This has happened to Labour’s David Clark, who had an inherited Member’s Bill drawn just after he was elected and got some attention, media rated him as someone to watch, he raced up the Labour pecking order, but seems to have slipped into obscurity outside his electorate city Dunedin and making a racket in the House.

David Seymour has managed to attract a bit of attention in his first term. He had a daunting task establishing himself in his Epsom electorate and trying to resurrect the Act Party in Parliament.

James Shaw came into Parliament at 13 on their list in 2014 but jumped the queue to become co-leader after Russel Norman resigned.

Another Green MP, Marama Davidson replaced Norman as next on the list last year and has had some success in establishing a profile.

Maori Party list MP Marama Fox has done a good job and has been rated as a success. Maori MPs in particular seem to have public profile problems as they tend to work quietly with their constituents – see the Parakura method and Insight into Māori politics.

Old school parties tended to frown on new MPs trying to make a name for themselves.

Sir Keith Holyoake, New Zealand Prime Minister from 1960 to 1972, famously counselled first-term Members of Parliament to ‘breathe through their noses’, suggesting that it was in their best interests to keep their heads down and mouths shut.

Perhaps this recommendation is instrumental in the low profile of first-term MPs in New Zealand and the subsequent dearth of information available about these individuals.

But Bishop has done more than breathe through his nose, showing that something can be achieved by new MPs.

New law gives financial assistance to organ donors

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.

This is a very good achievement for Bishop, and unlike many Member’s bills it will be very beneficial. It not only financially supports those who donate organs, it should encourage more to donate.

Bishop also did very well in his first election in 2014, pushing incumbent  Trevor Mallard in Hutt South hard and giving him a scare ending up with 16,127 votes to Mallard’s 16,836.

Mallard has opted out of standing again in an electorate, hoping to get in on Labour’s list (on current polling that is far from guaranteed) and hoping Labour wins so they give him the job of  Speaker.

Bishop has also been working hard in the electorate so has a good chance of establishing himself as an electorate MP.

He is a hybrid MP, having worked for a public company (Philip Morris) and has also worked as a staffer for Steven Joyce.

Bishop hasn’t heeded the ‘breath through the nose’ advice, but Holyoake was from a very different era (he was Prime Minister from 1660-1972 and died in 1983) and Bishop is a new breed of MP.

Organ donor problems

The Sunday Star Times reports ‘Calculator’ used in transplant decisions:

A lack of kidney donors has forced specialists to introduce a “mortality calculator” that will bump people off the transplant list if they don’t meet certain criteria.

The process has left at least one patient “furious” but doctors say their hands have been forced by a dire situation where the list of people needing transplants continues to grow but the number of donors does not.

Nick Cross, clinical director of the Nephrology Department at Christchurch Hospital, had a central role in introducing the calculator and said it was forced by a “very constrained environment”.

The process involves doctors asking patients a number of questions and then using the calculator to assess whether they meet the threshold of an 80 per cent chance of being alive five years after transplant.

New Zealand has relatively poor donation rates.

That rate of about 8 donors per million people is well below the donor rate in Australia, Britain and the US. Australia has a rate of about 15 per million, the US and UK are about 20, Norway is about 22.

“It’s been static for years and compares pretty poorly with countries round the world.

“There are a lot of people that need kidneys but there is a small pool of kidneys to be transplanted.”

David Farrar comments on this at Kiwiblog:

Actually there are lots of donors. But we have a stupid law where the wishes of the family trump the decision of the deceased to be an organ donor.

Grieving families shouldn’t be asked to make a decision over organ donation. They should be informed that their loved one directed they wished to be an organ donor, and it has happened.

The same should apply to where people are buried – the wishes of the deceased (so long as legal) should trump that of the family.

That can obviously be a very emotional time for family. I think it would be at the very least courteous to advise immediate next of kin before it has been done.

Organ donor campaigner Andrew Tookey comments as well:

As you will know I took this to Parliament several times. Including co-authoring a Bill to stop people vetoing your wish to be a donor. It was biffed out in favour of the government bill (Human Tissue Act) that allows for an even greater number of people to veto you wish. (On the grounds of “Spiritual & Cultural”)

(Why my long lost brother who I haven’t seen for 20 years religion trumps my lack of one I don’t know.)

I am working on a new plan! (I met with Annette King last week) and hope I can make some traction there.

I am thinking of taking it back to Parliament again by way of petition, which at least forces them to discuss the issue again.

Last year we had exactly the same amount of donors as when I first took the issue to Parliament as Ten years ago!

In the meantime, in the media just last week I note:

Australia—Increase of organ donations 55%
Scotland— Increase of organ donations 74%
Ireland— Increase of organ donations 82%
England— Increase of organ donations 50%

It’s time for Parliament to stop putting this in the “too hard basket” and deal with it (As above countries are doing.)

@Jaffa – I introduced a private donor register it is here:

I wrote a column in ‘THE PRESS’ about giving donors priority on the waiting list, and putting others who refuse to donate lower. This article should be republished now as it’s is timely!

Read my article and comment please!

I’m registered as a donor and have just discussed this with my wife. She says that if I died she would respect my wish to be an organ donor, but has serious concerns about how it might be done and what might happen.

I really don’t know what the possibilities are should I die. I’d love to be useful as an organ donor, but there are other things I am far less keen on, like being used at Med School.

I can’t remember what I have agreed to. It will be too late to clarify this when I die, and it puts family in a difficult position. I need to do some more research.

A good place to start is Lifesharers.

An organ transplant could save your life some day — if you’re lucky enough to get an organ.  But your odds of getting one aren’t brilliant.

LifeSharers can improve your odds.  Here’s why that’s important:

  • New Zealand has the lowest organ donor rate in the Western World.
  • In 2006 there were just 25 organ donors in New Zealand.
  • In the past 6 years the transplant waiting list has doubled.
  • There presently around 2000 people on dialysis.
  • In 2006 there were 330 deaths of people on dialysis.
  • In 2006 there were 433 people on the waiting list for a kidney. Only 41 kidney transplants were done. (Not including live donors.)
  • In 2006 the number of transplants performed were at the lowest level in 14 years.
  • In 2006 the number of ‘new’ patients entering renal failure programs was 484. A rate of 117 people per million of population. The organ donor rate was 6 per million of population.
  • There is no way to register as an organ donor in New Zealand.
  • You, or a family member are more likely to need a transplant than to become a donor.