You will soon have to opt out of organ donation - here's everything you need to know

Wednesday, 26th February 2020, 2:53 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th February 2020, 2:56 pm

The majority of England's 56 million population will automatically be enrolled as organ donors in May, unless they choose to opt out, the Health Secretary has confirmed.

Max and Keira’s Law – the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act – will come into effect on 20 May 2020, subject to parliamentary approval.

From the time the law changes, all adults in England will be considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die, unless they record a decision not to donate - what’s known as ‘opting out’ - or are in one of the excluded groups.

Those excluded will be people under 18, those who lack the mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and take the necessary action, and people who have lived in England for fewer than 12 months, or who are not living here voluntarily.

Even after the law changes, families will still be involved before any organ or tissue donation goes ahead, and NHS Blood and Transplant Specialist Nurses will continue to speak with families about their loved one’s decision.

Law change will lead to an extra 700 transplants per year

It is estimated that the opt out method will lead to an additional 700 transplants each year by 2023.

Keira Ball, nine, saved four lives - including that of fellow nine year old, Max Johnson - after her father allowed doctors to use her organs for transplants, following a car crash in 2017.

Johnson,who championed this law change said, “I am very excited that we now know when the law change in England will actually happen. There are so many people who are waiting, just like I was, for the call to say that a suitable heart, kidney, lungs or liver has been found.

“I just hope that this law change can help save more lives. When you are waiting for a transplant, every day counts and I hope that everyone who hears about the law change will be reminded to speak to their family, so they know what you want.”

Significant step to help those on donor waiting lists

Ministers said the change, brought about through last year’s Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act, would be a significant step towards helping the 5,200 people in England who are on waiting lists for life saving or life enhancing transplants.

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.

"I'm incredibly proud of the action we are taking with this new law. 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.”

Body parts that will be considered for routine transplants include the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestinal organs, bone, arteries and nervous tissue.

Patients who have previously declared that they do not want to donate some or all of their organs will not have to re-record their decision, according to the Government.

Anthony Clarkson, director of organ donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said, "It is important for people to know that they can do this at any time before or after the law comes into effect. There is no deadline for making your donation decision.”

The law change has been widely welcomed by health charities such as the British Heart Foundation and Kidney Care UK.