The Wokingham Paper

New organ donation law comes into force in England today

Organ donation
Picture: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A NEW law that will save lives has come into force today. 

From now on, all adults in England are considered to have agreed to organ donation when they die, unless they opt-out of the scheme or in an excluded group. 

Known as Max and Keira’s Law, the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act, is the biggest shake-up to the system since organ donation cards were introduced in the 1980s. 

The NHS says that few people die in the circumstances where organ donation is possible, but at the moment, due to Covid-19, fewer donations and transplants are taking place. 

While transplants continue to happen, organ donation will not go ahead, if a potential donor is known to have, or suspected of having, Covid-19. 

It is hoped to re-open transplant centre in a phased return to normal as part of the wider recovery of NHS services.

Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation: “We are very pleased that Max and Keira’s Law has passed its final round of parliamentary approval and we welcome the new legislation.

“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.

“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.”

Mr Clarkson added that there is no deadline to opting out, decisions can be made at any time. 

“We will continue to provide the very best care and support to organ donors and their families, in order to help save more lives through the gift of organ donation,” he said. 

The NHS has cited the case of Faizan Awan, a 33-year-old from Blackburn, who is one of thousands of people across the UK still waiting for a transplant. 

It is hoped that the new law will help him and others to receive the precious life-saving gift of a transplant.

Faizan had his first organ transplant – a kidney – when he was three. When that failed at the age of 14, he was on dialysis for 18 months and in 2000, he received a kidney from his father. He is now back on the organ transplant list and has been waiting for a kidney for the last two-and-a-half years.

“This will be my third transplant and will be the most complicated yet as it will need to be a near perfect match – which means it needs to come from my own community,” he said.  

“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.

“Perhaps this is because they have never considered it, feel it is a taboo subject, that their religion doesn’t allow it or their family would disapprove. I would urge everyone to do more research, read the information provided by the NHS, find out what different religions really say about organ donation and how different faiths and beliefs can be respected and accommodated by organ donation staff.

“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.”

And there is a call for more donations from enthic groups across the country. 

Kirit Modi, Honorary President of National BAME Transplant Alliance (NBTA), said: “I welcome the change in law because eventually it will result in a significant increase in organ transplants and help save lives. 

“I urge people from across Black, Asian, Mixed Race and Minority Ethnic communities to continue to support organ donation and register to donate organs following discussion with their family members. 

“If you haven’t considered organ donation before, then please take time to find out more about it before making your decision.

“At a time when Covid-19 has had a huge impact on many from the BAME communities, it is important that we continue to work closely with NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) and NHS hospitals to carefully consider and work to address any disproportionate impact on BAME patients.”

England has now caught up with other countries: Wales already has an opt out system, after changing its law in December 2015, Jersey introduced the opt-out system in July last year and Scotland will also be moving to an opt out system in March 2021.

There are some automatic exclusions to the new law: people under 18, 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 here voluntarily and those who have nominated someone else to make the decision on their behalf.

In cases, where the individual hasn’t expressed a decision, specialist nurses will support families to make a decision, based on what their loved ones would have wanted. If the decision is not to donate, this will be honoured and upheld.

For more information, and to register your decision, visit: www.organdonation.nhs.uk

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