Couple whose son died waiting for a heart transplant relieved at change of organ donor law

A couple from Cumbria, whose son died shortly before his second birthday while waiting for a heart transplant, have told ITV Border of their relief at the change in England's organ donor law.

From Wednesday, most adults will have to opt-out of becoming an organ donor. The new law is aimed at boosting the number of transplants to those who need life-saving operations.

Mackenzie Weallens wasn't yet two-years-old, but a heart defect from birth meant he desperately needed a heart transplant.

A suitable one could not be found in time to save his life and his family were faced with the heartbreaking decision to turn off his life support machine.

Lee Weallans, Mackenzie's dad, said: "I just don't want other families to have to go through that, with having the option now where it's more likely that something may happen for them."

Now new rules in England mean that a person who dies is assumed to have given their consent to their organs being used in transplants - though the family of the deceased are still able to say no.

John Leveson received a liver transplant nearly 11 years ago and thinks the new rules will help save more lives.

He said: "I was told after my transplant that I had around six months left to live, so what it meant to me was that I didn't die in the summer of 2010 and I'm still here in the summer of 2020.

"Anything which can increase the availability of organ transplant in my opinion can only be great news."

There are currently more than forty people waiting for organ transplants in Cumbria alone, but some experts don't think the new regulations will help.

Helen Watt, from the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, said: "There's no evidence that shows there's going to be a huge increase in the number of organs available.

"Certainly in Wales, for the first couple of years, donations actually went down. Whereas in the same period donations went up in Scotland and in England. But in any case I think we have to look at issues of informed consent."

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

The new rules bring England into line with Wales, Scotland is due to have similar changes to their legislation next Spring.