People who donate a kidney to a relative or friend are being left up to €7,000 out of pocket, a leading consultant has revealed.
Prof Peter Conlon, a specialist at Beaumont Hospital, in Dublin, highlighted how donors have to pay all their own expenses, which usually run to between €5,000 and €7,000.
Prof Conlon was appearing before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children with a number of doctors to discuss organ donation.
"Typically, a living donor will require several weeks off work from major surgery and will not be available for work," he said.
"It will typically cost each living kidney donor between €5,000 to €7,000 by way of lost income and out-of-pocket expenses."
In the UK, the state covers up to €5,000 for these expenses and an EU directive requires Health Minister James Reilly to implement such a system, which he should do without delay, said Prof Conlon.
The hospital consultant also spoke about the problems faced by other kidney donors. At least two people who wanted to give one of their kidneys to a stranger were forced to go to the UK – benefiting patients there rather than those on the Irish transplant list – because there is no legislation in Ireland to permit this altruism, Prof Conlon said.
Kidney donors living abroad who want to give one of their kidneys to a loved one living here are also facing difficulties.
"There is no clear-cut mechanism or policy from the Department of Health allowing these donors to come to Ireland and receive their care in an Irish hospital," he told the committee.
Prof Conlon said that while the Health Service Executive (HSE) recently committed funding to the first phase of an expanded programme for living kidney donors and agreed in "principle" to pay for it over the next three years, he was unsure if it would be ever implemented.
It should mean that around 100 of these operations could be carried out annually. There are currently around 100 live kidney donors and recipients on a waiting list to get the go-ahead for the operations.
Prof Jim Egan, director of the National Organ Donation and Transplantation office, said 685 patients are currently on the national waiting list for a transplant of different organs.