Adults in England will automatically be enrolled as organ donors from May 2020, unless they choose to opt out.
The legislative change, known as Max and Keira’s Law, comes into effect on 20 May, meaning adults will now have consented to donating their organs, unless a decision against it has been recorded.
Who does the law change apply to?
The Organ Donation Deemed Consent Act affects all adults in England, excluding a few excluded groups.
Those who exempt include:
- Those under the age of 18
- People who lack the mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and take the necessary action
- Visitors to England, and those not living here voluntarily
- People who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death
If you do not fall into one of those groups, it is now considered you have agreed to donate your organs when you die, unless you have recorded a decision not to - and this decision is still yours to make.
However, even after the changes come into effect, families will still be involved before any organ or tissue donation goes ahead.
NHS Blood and Transplant Specialist Nurses will continue to speak with families about their loved one’s decision.
Why is the law changing?
The law is being changed to help save more lives and ensure more organs are available to help those desperately in need and on waiting lists. Every day across the UK, someone dies waiting for a transplant.
It is estimated that the opt out method will lead to an additional 700 transplants each year by 2023.
Keira Ball, nine, saved four lives – including that of fellow nine year old, Max Johnson – after her father allowed doctors to use her organs for transplants, following a car crash in 2017.
Ministers also said the change, brought about through last year’s Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act, would be a significant step towards helping the 5,200 people in England who are on waiting lists for life saving or life enhancing transplants.
The law has been widely welcomed by health charities such as the British Heart Foundation and Kidney Care UK.
How does the organ donation process work?
The organ donation process involves a specialist team who ensure that donors are treated with the greatest care and respect during the removal of organs and tissue for donation.
Body parts that will be considered for routine transplants include the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestinal organs, bone, arteries and nervous tissue.
The retrieval of organs takes place in a normal operating theatre under sterile conditions, and is carried out by specialist surgeons. Afterwards, the surgical incision is carefully closed and covered by a dressing in the normal way.
Only those organs and tissue specified by the donor and agreed with the family will be removed.
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.
How do I opt out?
If you do not wish to donate, you will need to record your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
There is no deadline for recording your decision and you are free to register your choice, before or after the change in law.
If you request that your details are withdrawn from the register, the organ donation decision you had previously recorded - whether to donate or not to donate - will be removed from the NHS Organ Donor Register along with your personal details. This will mean that there is no longer any recorded decision for you on the register.
In an 'opt out' system, if there is no recorded decision for you, it will be considered that you agree to donate your organs after death unless you are in an excluded group.
If you record an opt out decision, you are recording your decision not to donate your organs and tissue after death. Your decision is added to the NHS Organ Donation Register, and will be respected in the event of your death.