Galvanized by the campaigning of a nine-year-old organ donee, England finally enacted an opt-out organ donation policy.
In England alone, over 5,000 patients were on the waiting list for organ donations as of December last year. Due to the ongoing pandemic, that number is only expected to grow. Therefore, "Max and Keira’s law" comes at an incredibly crucial time. The law, inspired by a real-life donor and donee's story, will move England to an organ donation opt-out system. One a citizen turns 18, they are automatically registered as an organ donor (with their consent, of course). The law has thus been called "game-changing" for those waiting on life-saving transplants, The Guardian reports.
According to a national survey, 80 percent of adults in England claimed that they would consider donating an organ. However, only about 40 percent of adults are registered as organ donors. This law will fill in the gap. It officially came into effect on May 20 and is expected to save hundreds of lives every single year. Despite the automatic registration, the family's consent will still be mandatory for organs or tissues to be retrieved. This is for two reasons: first, to maintain consideration for the family, and second, to ensure medical professionals have access to all the additional information they need.
The policy, as its name suggests, was inspired by Max and Keira. Following a crash in 2017, Keira Ball was able to save the lives of four people simply because her father consented to use her organs for transplants. Max Johnson, who was nine years old at the time, was one of the people she was able to rescue. Ever since then, he has been campaigning to enact "Max and Kiera's law" to make sure others have the same access to a fighting chance at life. This policy move brings England to the same standing as other countries in the United Kingdom. In 2015, Wales saw a vast improvement in organ donations after they adopted a similar opt-out system.
Helen Gillan, the general manager of tissue and eye services at the National Health Service's Blood and Transplant division, explained, "Since Wales introduced an opt-out system, their consent rate has risen from 58 percent to 75 percent." It is hoped that the law will have the same success in England. For many on England's organ waiting list, the legislation is more than just a law - it's a shot at life. For Faizan Awan, who is waiting to have a third kidney transplant, it's make or break. "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," he said in an interview with Metro.co.uk. "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."
While the law has been enacted, it may be a while before it comes into practice due to the ongoing outbreak. Nonetheless, this was an important policy move that will have positive impacts on public health. Health Secretary Matt Hancock affirmed, "Today we celebrate a milestone for organ donation as we move to a new system of deemed consent in England which will mean hundreds [of] more lives could be transformed each year. I want to pay tribute to Max, Keira, and everyone else who campaigned for this change."