Automatic organ donation comes into force in May

Author: Jo Carlowe

All adults in England will be automatically enrolled as organ donors under a new law that comes into force on 20 May.

Known as the Max and Keira’s law, there will be an opt-out option. Keira Ball, aged nine, saved four lives, including that of nine-year-old Max Johnson, after her father allowed doctors to use her organs for transplant following a car crash in 2017.

It is estimated that under this system of ‘deemed consent’ an extra 700 organ transplants will take place each year by 2023, and help the 5,200 people in England who are on waiting lists for life-saving or life-enhancing transplants.

If approved by Parliament, under the new system, brought about through last year’s Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act, all adults in England will be deemed to have agree to donate their organs when they die, unless they have opted-out, or they are under 18, have lived in England for less than a year, or have ‘lacked capacity for a significant time’.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Too many people lose their lives waiting for an organ, and I’ve been determined to do what I can to boost organ donation rates. This is an important step forward in making organ donation easier and more available to those who need it and could help save hundreds of lives every year.

“I pay tribute to the brave campaigning of families such as Max and Keira’s, whose tireless work on this issue has made a huge difference.”

MPs look set to approve the new system later today.

The introduction of ‘deemed consent’ has been welcomed by health professionals, with the British Medical Association (BMA) describing it as a “hugely positive step”, which will “save many lives”.

Dr John Chisholm, BMA Medical Ethics Committee chair, said: “The introduction of the new opt-out organ donation system is a hugely positive step and something that the BMA has been consistently campaigning for over the last 20 years.

“Last year more than 400 people died waiting for a transplant and the BMA wholeheartedly believes the opt-out model is the best way to address the serious organ shortage in England and will save many lives.

“With the change to the system now set to go ahead in the spring, it is essential that it is widely publicised and communicated to patients and the public, so people are fully aware of the changes and can choose to opt out of organ donation if they wish to do so.

“It is also vital that the NHS is given the proper resources and is fully staffed to ensure patients reap the full benefit of the new system and the potential increase in donations.”