Monday, April 08, 2013

Paid leave kidney donation

Image: Kathryn Hedges

 Health Minister,Tanya Plibersek , has set the rules for paid leave kidney donation as these:

  • Living donors will be offered cash grants up to $3,600
  • Donors must have a job and employers will distribute payments over six weeks
  • Paid leave scheme will be offered for living donors offering kidneys and parts of their liver

Our discussions about it at work this morning were the liveliest and most animated I have heard in a long time. Like me, people believed this was a significant, serious break from traditional practice and belief in Australia and found it to be deeply disturbing. We are tertiary educated professionals. This was making us really sit up and think because no attention was being paid to the ethical, moral and social implications and ramifications of a health minister making such decisions without prior consultation and debate with the general public. Some said it was a third world approach to the matter and had thought that as they read the article.  It also means severe kidney disease has ascendancy over other life threatening diseases and workers have ascendancy over non-workers. To discuss this properly and adequately it is essential to have a wide and well considered look at all the implications. Suddenly instead of this being a matter which is managed in a personal way through families and workplaces there are now a number of considerations and we are now all party to paid leave for kidney donation and we were not included in any way in this matter. It is serious. Deadly serious. If we cannot get enough organs to transplant then we need to think long and hard about that and look at why people are reluctant to donate organs when they know they mean such a difference in the lives of others. Paying people for donation leave is putting a whole new look on transplants and it is not the one we want. The discussions at work were fast and furious. Other countries have live organ donations. The UK version is here and the US version is here. Living with one kidney is possible but it is not without risks which ought to be discussed and  freely available. I am certainly not going to be party to a government which is paying people to  create health issues for themselves even though they may be benefiting someone else. It's wrong. If you make that as a unilateral, personal decision, there is no issue. Living Donor 101 documents the risks to the donor and they are significant, so if it is believed that is not the case we need proper data and information. On the UK donor site above it says a kidney from a living donor who is related will allow a further 20 years life . That is a best case scenario. The UK National Kidney Foundation site says there is a 50% chance of  surviving 10 years or more. We should not be in this position. That is partly what is so wrong and unacceptable about it. To discuss it we are discussing people and their lives. A number of us had family members who had had kidney transplants so we were well aware of what this could mean in all its goodness and then all its sadness. It isn't going away. Not the problem of live saving transplants nor a government dealing with this in a way which is truly disturbing us. As it stands it has deflected the focus away from organ donations and onto the myriad of other issues.

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