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Adults to be automatically enrolled as organ donors under new law

‘Too many people lose their lives waiting for an organ,’ says Matt Hancock

Peter Stubley
Tuesday 25 February 2020 07:02 GMT
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Matt Hancock explains new organ donation law

All adults in England will be automatically enrolled as organ donors unless they choose to opt out, under a new law due to come into force in May.

MPs are set to approve the system “deemed consent” on Tuesday as part of a bid to boost the number of transplants on the NHS.

It is estimated that the opt-out method, known as Max and Keira’s law, will lead to an additional 700 organ transplants each year by 2023 and cut down the list of 5,200 people waiting for life-changing surgery.

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

If parliament approves the change, the date of 20 May will mark the point at which all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to donate their own organs when they die – unless they explicitly state otherwise or are in an excluded group.

Relatives will still be asked for their opinion which can lead to donations being blocked if they object regardless of the wishes of the deceased.

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.

“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.

“I pay tribute to the brave campaigning of families such as Max and Keira’s, whose tireless work on this issue has made a huge difference.”

Children under 18 will be excluded from the scheme, along with people who have lived in England for less than a year or have ”lacked capacity for a significant time”, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

The heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestinal organs, bone, arteries and nervous tissue will all be considered for routine transplants.

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.

The law change has been welcomed by charities including the British Heart Foundation and Kidney Care UK.

Anthony Clarkson, director of organ donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We hope that the new law encourages more people to record their donation decision and talk about organ donation with their families.

“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.

“We are encouraged that almost two-thirds of people in England are now aware that the law is changing, but we would like this figure to be even higher by the time the law changes.

“The majority of people tell us that they support organ donation in principle, yet only around four in 10 have actually registered their decision.”

Additional reporting by PA

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