Friday, May 18, 2007

Private Member's Bill would help defray expenses of living organ donors

I am very pleased to see this bill introduced in Canada's Parliament. I had the opportunity to speak with Lloyd St. Amand about this on several occasions and he and his colleagues deserve to be commended for taking this initiative. I personally know a living liver donor whose expenses topped $26,000 due to lost wages and other personal costs. Hopefully this bill will pass and more living organ donors will be encouraged to step forward, knowing that much of their expenses will be looked after. Merv.

OTTAWA, ONTARIO – May 17, 2007 – Today, Lloyd St. Amand, M.P. for Brant, introduced Bill C-444, An Act to provide for cash contributions to provinces that operate programs for the reimbursement of the expenses of living organ donors, to provide for the appointment of a National Organ Transplant Coordinator and to amend the Employment Insurance Act.

When presenting this Bill, Mr. St. Amand stated:

Mr. Speaker, I wish first to thank my colleague, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, for his tremendous long standing assistance on this issue.

I also wish to thank my colleague, the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, for seconding the bill.

The living donors reimbursement act is an important step in increasing living organ donations in Canada. Thousands of individuals in Canada are currently waiting for an organ. Living donors are a vital part of Canada's organ donation system, as organs from living donors are typically healthier, function better and last longer.

We as a federal government must do more to ensure that living organ donors who are truly giving the gift of life to others are reimbursed for their out of pocket expenses and lost income. The bill would amend the Employment Insurance Act to allow those who are convalescing from their organ donation to claim loss of their wages.

The bill would also allow the appointment of a national organ transplant coordinator to lead the efforts to coordinate and match potential donors with recipients

Mr. St. Amand was awakened to the need for such a Bill during his participation in Brantford’s Annual Organ Donation Bonspiel.

“I have previously attended the Brant County Organ Donor Bonspiel, which raises funds and awareness for organ transplants. It was absolutely inspiring to hear from recipients how eternally grateful they are for the gift of life given to them. I heard many, many touching stories from local individuals who are sincere in their appreciation for receiving an organ from someone else,” stated M.P. St. Amand.

“One gentleman, for instance, hoped and prayed to live long enough to see his daughter marry. After receiving an organ, he not only lived to see his daughter married, but now spends time with his grandchildren.”

The federal government must make it as financially easy as possible for living donors. Donors must be reimbursed for lost wages for time spent away from work due to the organ transplant, as well as any travel and accommodation expenses that are incurred.

A National Transplant Coordinator would lead in the coordination of donors to recipients, as well as assist in developing a national, cohesive, inclusive and ongoing strategy for organ donation.

According to Health Canada, Transplants can save health care costs: the cost of a kidney transplant averages $20,000 plus $6,000 per year thereafter ($50,000 over five years). Maintaining a kidney patient on dialysis costs $50,000 per year ($250,000 over five years).

Currently, British Columbia is the only province with a living donor reimbursement program. A pilot project is currently being jointly funded by the provincial government and private donations.

“Canada currently ranks very low for organ transplants. I believe the removal of financial barriers is a positive step to encourage living organ donation in our country.”

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