A NEW LAW under which all adults in England will now be deemed as potential organ donors after they die — unless they record a decision not to donate, or are in one of the excluded categories — has come into force on Wednesday (20).
Under the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act, besides people who “opt out”, the adults excluded will be: those who lack the mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and take the necessary action; people who have lived in England for less than 12 months; those who are not living in England voluntarily; and those who have nominated someone else to make the decision on their behalf.
The law is known as Max and Kiera’s law, named after Keira Ball, who died aged nine in 2017, and Max Johnson, now aged 12, who was saved by her heart.
Reports noted that though 80 per cent of adults in England were willing to consider organ donation, only 40 signed up as per the current records.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Organ transplants are one of the modern miracles of science – helping offer hope in the midst of tragic loss. Today we celebrate a milestone for organ donation as we move to a new system of deemed consent in England which will mean hundred more lives could be transformed each year.”
In cases where an individual has not expressed a decision, specialist nurses will support families to make a decision, based on what their loved ones would have wanted, said the NHS.
“It is important that people know they will still have a choice whether or not to donate. Families will still be consulted, and people’s faith, beliefs and culture will continue to be respected,” said Anthony Clarkson, director, Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation, NHS Blood and Transplant.
“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. We want people to know that there is no deadline to make your donation decision, you can register your choice at any time.”
The coronavirus pandemic has added a further complication to the NHS transplant schedules, with even fewer donations and transplants taking place currently.
“While this law change is a huge step forward, and will no doubt help to improve the survival chances of those in need of organ transplants, it will take more time to implement because of the impact of the Covid-19,” said Lord Jitesh Gadhia, who has been campaigning to raise awareness about the law among Britain’s Indian communities.
“Ethnic minority patients have been more severely affected not just by the pandemic but also by the knock-on impact on organ donations and transplants. It is therefore more critical than ever that we help our communities and the wider public understand the significance of this law change and continue to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation and its significance for British Indians.”
Kirit Modi, honorary president of National BAME Transplant Alliance, added: “At a time when Covid-19 appears to have hit BAME communities hardest, we should remember that a shortage of BAME donors means that patients from these same communities wait longer for a transplant and are more likely to die waiting.
“It is important that we continue to work closely with NHS Blood and Transplant and NHS hospitals to carefully consider and work to address any disproportionate impact on BAME patients.”
Modi also chairs the Jain and Hindu Organ Donation (JHOD) steering group, set up in 2018, to raise awareness among specific Indian communities.
The JHOD has been working in partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant, the organisation responsible for organ donation across the UK, in developing videos and leaflets on the change in law from a Hindu and Jain perspective.
Besides England, the devolved government of Wales already has an opt out system, after changing its law in December 2015. Jersey introduced the opt out system in July 2019 and Scotland will also be moving to an opt out system in March 2021.