New opt-out organ donation law comes into force in England

The law in England has shifted to an opt-out system for organ donation Credit: NHS Blood and Transplant/PA

Most adults in England will have to opt-out of becoming an organ donor after new legislation comes into force on Wednesday.

The new organ donation law is aimed at boosting the number of transplants to those who need life-saving operations.

It is hoped the law, which takes effect from Wednesday, will lead to an additional 700 transplants each year by 2023, and spark conversations around organ donation.

The change in legislation was brought about thanks partly due to the campaigning of a young boy who got a new heart from a nine-year-old girl who died after a car crash.

Max and Keira’s law sees a shift to an opt-out system, whereby those aged 18 and over are deemed to have given consent to donate their own organs when they die, unless they explicitly state otherwise or are in an excluded group.

Keira Ball saved four lives, including that of Max Johnson, also aged nine at the time, after her father allowed doctors to use her organs for transplants following a crash in 2017.

Anthony Clarkson, director of organ and tissue donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), said: “We hope this law change will prompt all of us to consider whether or not we would want to donate our organs and encourage us all to register and share our decision with our family and friends.”

Faizan Awan is one of thousands of people across the UK who has been waiting for a transplant.

The 33-year-old has been on the waiting list for two-and-a-half years after his previous two kidney transplants failed.

He said: “For many people like me, who are waiting for an organ, the law change is a sign of hope and a transplant would dramatically change my life in a number of ways.

“With the new law coming into effect, it is now more important than ever to talk about organ donation and get the conversation going amongst our family and friends.”

He added: “This means it is incredibly likely I will be waiting for a while as the Asian community are underrepresented as donors on the NHS organ donor register.”

The number of transplants taking place in the UK has dropped dramatically due to coronavirus, with figures from from NHSBT showing that just 99 such operations were performed in April compared with 244 in March.

Health minister Lord Bethall said earlier this week that while the law comes into force on Wednesday it may not come into practice straight away “due to the limitations of Covid”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Today we celebrate a milestone for organ donation as we move to a new system of deemed consent in England which will mean hundreds more lives could be transformed each year.

“I want to pay tribute to Max, Keira and everyone else who campaigned for this change.”

A similar law was introduced in Wales in 2015, while Scotland is due to have such a measure in place by autumn 2020.

People in England can still opt-out of the new legislation.

Northern Ireland continues to have an opt-in system.