• Wednesday, July 06, 2022

News

Impact of new organ donation law on Asian teenager’s life

Simran Sahajpal in hospital for organ transplantation

By: Swati Rana

AN ASIAN teenager has spoken about how she got a new lease of life following an organ transplant as it emerged that 296 people have donated their organs in the year since the law around it was changed.

It was on May 20 that Max and Keira’s Law (Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act 2020) came into effect in England, which saw the country shift to an “opt out” system for organ donation.

Under the law, people in England are considered as willing to donate, unless they have opted out, are in one of the excluded groups or have told their family they don’t want to donate.

Simran Sahajpal, 19, had been waiting for a kidney transplant for five years.

With her south Asian heritage, Sahajpal was aware that finding a donor would be difficult as those from a black, Asian or minority ethnic heritage wait longer than those who are from a white background.

“After being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, and then end-stage kidney failure at the age of 13, I began to think that my transplant call would never come,” Sahajpal said.

“From March 2018 I was reliant on daily dialysis, which lasted for 10 hours every night.

“Being from an Indian background, I was told early on that I could end up waiting longer for my transplant. With the support of my parents, we decided to start our own campaign to raise awareness of organ donation and hopefully encourage more people to support donation and speak with their families.”

In September last year, Sahajpal received her life-saving call.

She said, “I honestly couldn’t believe it. While recovery took some time, it was just wonderful to finally be free of daily dialysis and I have even been well enough to start university. I am just so grateful to the donor and their family who said yes and made all this possible.”

Sahajpal added, “Prior to the law changing, there were so many myths and misinformation circulating, I felt I needed to speak out and do something to ensure people had access to the real facts.

“It has been really encouraging to see people starting to listen and more people being willing to talk openly and support organ donation.”

Since April 2016, 2,433 people across the UK have died while waiting for an organ transplant.

It is hoped the 2020 law will eventually enable more people to donate and/or receive the transplants they need.

Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant, collated up until April 30, show that so far since the law changed, 296 people in England have donated their organs after being considered as willing to donate as they had not expressed an organ donation decision during their lifetime.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said, “This month marks a year since we moved to a new opt-out organ donation system which has already started having an impact, and will save and transform thousands of lives in the future.

“Max and Keira’s Law reflects the majority of the public’s views that organ donation is the right thing to do, providing hope and comfort for families in some of the hardest moments of their lives. On this one-year anniversary, I continue to encourage everyone to talk openly about donation with their friends and family and thank each and every person who has made their views known.”

John Forsythe, medical director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation, at NHS Blood and Transplant, said in the early days of the pandemic last year, many specialist organ donation nurses volunteered to help care for patients with Covid-19 in intensive care.

He said, “Training and other preparations for the new law had to be fitted around this.

“To see such a positive and heart-warming response from the public, especially those families facing the very worst news, in some of the hardest circumstances, is such an incredible testament to the strength of those families. Many have told us how organ donation offered comfort in an otherwise tragic situation.”

For more information, or to register your organ donation decision, visit: www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23. NHS app users can also use the service to record, check or update their organ donation decision.

 

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