Adults in the UK will soon be presumed to be willing organ donors unless they had previously opted out of the new system.
The Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill received Royal Assent on 15 March. Royal Assent means the bill is now an act of parliament.
The act is known as Max and Keira’s law in honour of a boy who received a heart transplant and the girl who donated it.
There are more than 6,000 people currently waiting for an organ in the UK. Three people die each day while on the waiting list. The new law will help to reduce the number of people waiting for a life-saving transplant.
Changes to the way consent is granted will take effect in 2020. Before this happens, the government will launch a public awareness campaign to make sure people understand the new system and the choices they have.
Those excluded from the plans include:
• children under 18
• people who lack the mental capacity to understand the changes for a significant period before their death
• people who have not lived in England for at least 12 months before their death.
There will also be strict safeguards in place and specialist nurses will always discuss donation with families so an individual’s wishes are respected.
80% of people in England support organ donation but only 38% have opted in. This means families are often left with a difficult decision when a loved one dies.
Those who do not wish to donate their organs will still be able to record their decision on the NHS Organ Donation Register. They will be able to do this through NHS Blood and Transplant’s website or helpline.
The government will also consult on whether certain organs should be excluded from the opt-out system.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “I’m delighted Max and Keira’s law has passed today. It marks a momentous step for thousands of people in need of a life-saving transplant.
“With significantly more people willing to consider organ donation than are actually registered as donors, this vital step will presume consent unless people choose to opt out of being a donor.”
It is expected that the new law could save as many as 700 people each year.