Organ Donation Law in England Will Make Transplants More Available

This new opt-out law could save hundreds of lives every year.

Jun 6, 2020

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Organ donations save lives. In fact, over 100,000 organ transplants are done every year globally according to the World Health Organization. In many countries, you must sign a pledge and carry a card with you to show that you want to be a donor, but England just made it so much easier.

A new law just went into effect on May 20, 2020 that presumes consent to organ donation for adults over the age of 18 unless you opt-out on the National Health Insurance Donor Register. Family consent will still be required to make sure the person’s wishes are honored.

The law is called Max and Keira’s law after Max Johnson, a nine-year old boy who received a new heart from Keira Ball, a nine-year old girl who died after a car crash according to the BBC. Keira’s organs were used to save four lives. Max was near death and being kept alive with a mechanical pump before the transplant. Their stories were the inspiration for the new law.

The opt-out law is expected to lead to an additional 700 transplants a year by 2023. According to Medical Alert, three people in England die everyday waiting for transplants. When the law was passed in 2019, over 6,000 patients were on the transplant waiting list.

One donor can save, or in the case of cornea donations, greatly improve the quality of life for multiple people.

While 80 percent of people in England support organ donation, only 40 percent of them actually opted-in. And many people have not disclosed their wishes to their families. It is hoped that the new law will encourage families to have discussions about organ donations.

The opt-out system has been very successful in Wales where it has been in effect since 2015. “Since Wales introduced an opt-out system, their consent rate has risen from 58 percent to 75 percent,” Helen Gillan, the general manager of tissue and eye services at NHS Blood and Transplant told The Guardian.

So far, the new law is a hit with people who have benefited from organ and tissue donations. Andy Coghlan, 34, received a new heart valve when he was 15 due to a heart defect he was born with.

“[Signing the register] is the sort of thing you think ‘oh yeah I should really do that’ and then you don’t do it,” he said. “Personally, I think it is fantastic because it will save more lives, that is the bottom line for me.”

While many countries now have opt-out systems, there are still quite a few that rely on people signing up to be donors. Getting the word out about how important organ donations are will be an additional benefit of England’s new law. It’s time to start the conversation.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.