Friday 20 November marks six months since Max and Keira’s Law (Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act 2020) came into effect in England and saw the country shift to an ‘opt out’ system for organ donation. The new law, which saw England change to an opt out system alongside Wales and Jersey, means that people in England are now considered as willing to donate, unless they have opted out, are in one of the excluded groups or have told their family they don’t want to donate.
For the first time since the new law came into effect on 20 May, NHS Blood and Transplant are publishing initial data which highlights the positive impact the new law has had to date in helping to save lives through the gift of organ donation. Initial figures collated up until 31 October 2020 show that so far 135 people have donated their organs, after being considered as willing to donate as they had not expressed an organ donation decision during their lifetime. These donations account for 26% of all donations that took place during the same time period and resulted in a total of 341 organs transplanted.
80% of people in England said that they supported organ donation in principle
Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation, at NHS Blood and Transplant, says: “Although the law change came into effect in the midst of the first lockdown, we have been able to complete training for all of our specialist nurses and implement the new law across the country. It is still early days, but we have been really encouraged by the levels of support shown for organ donation and the new law over the last six months. While it is important to remember that many of these families may have agreed to organ donation even if the law hadn’t changed, for others, it has provided them with the confidence to allow organ donation to go ahead.”
Of all the families approached about organ donation between 20 May and 31 October, when the criteria for deemed consent applied, the consent rate (percentage of families giving their agreement for organ donation to go ahead) was 71%. In comparison, the consent rate was 91% for patients who had expressed their decision to donate and 52% for patients who had not expressed a decision and were in one of the excluded groups.
Since April 2016, more than 2000 people across the UK have died while waiting for an organ transplant. The hope is that the new law will eventually enable more people to donate and/or receive the transplants they need. Prior to the law change, around 80% of people in England said that they supported organ donation in principle, but only 38% had actually recorded their decision to donate. When asked, the majority said they just hadn’t got around to it.
What greater gift can there be, than to be able to save someone else’s life?
The change in the law came about as a result of years of campaigning by patients waiting for transplant and families of those who have donated. One of those who campaigned for the change in the law was Fez Awan from Blackburn.Earlier this year, Fez was waiting for his third kidney transplant, and knew that his chance of a call was lower due to the fact he is from a South Asian background. Thankfully, against all the odds, Fez’s life-saving call finally came through in the midst of the first lockdown.
Fez says: “Even though more people from Black and Asian backgrounds are more likely to require a transplant, people from these backgrounds are currently still much less likely to agree to donation. For a long time, the topic of death and organ donation has been a cultural taboo, however I am pleased to say that we are slowly starting to see this change. Younger generations especially, are becoming increasingly open to the idea of organ donation. I hope that the change in the law will encourage more people to have an open and honest conversation with their wider family members.
Without the selfless generosity of the donors and their families who enabled me to receive my transplants, there is a good chance I wouldn’t be here today. Some people might be worried about how organ donation sits with their religion or their beliefs, but all major religions in the UK, have given support for organ donation in principle. What greater gift can there be, than to be able to save someone else’s life?”
Kidney Care UK believes that Max and Keira’s law offers hope to people waiting for a transplant and with 8 out of 10 of those on the waiting list hoping for a kidney we were delighted to have supported this change in English law through our campaigning work and are pleased to see this encouraging news. Thank you to the wonderfully generous and brave families who have continued to support organ donation during the pandemic.
For more information, or register your organ donation decision, please visit the organ donation website or call 0300 123 23 23.
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