From 20 May 2020, the new law will be implemented in England and organ donation will move to a system of deemed consent (or ‘opt out’), known as Max and Keira’s law.
All adults in England will be considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die, unless they have made a decision that they do not want to be a donor or are in an excluded group.
The new system of consent for organ and tissue donation is a significant step to help the 5,200 people in England desperately waiting for a life-saving, or life-enhancing, transplant.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, "Too many people lose their lives waiting for an organ, and I've been determined to do what I can to boost organ donation rates. So I'm incredibly proud of the action we are taking with this new law. This is an important step forward in making organ donation easier and more available to those who need it and could help save hundreds of lives every year.
I pay tribute to the brave campaigning of families such as Max and Keira's, whose tireless work on this issue has made a huge difference."
I pay tribute to the brave campaigning of families such as Max and Keira's, whose tireless work on this issue has made a huge differenceMatt Hancock Health Secretary
Donating organs will remain a personal decision. While the new system starts in May, people will continue to be able to record their decision to opt out at any point. It’s important that everyone takes the time to discuss their choices on donation with their families, whatever their preference may be.
The results from deemed consent in Wales have already shown to be positive and Wales now has the highest consent rates in the UK.
A wide-ranging public information campaign led by NHSBT is ongoing to make the public aware of the changing law so they know what this means and the choices available to them.
Fiona Loud, Policy Director of Kidney Care UK, said: “People are still dying every single day in need of a transplant and around 80% of those waiting for a transplant are in need of a kidney. We very much welcome the introduction of Max and Keira’s Law on 20 May 2020 - it’s such an important step forward with the potential to transform so many lives. Patients have been waiting and hoping for this change, which stands to make a positive contribution to lives and our society, for many years.
Alongside the commitment to continued public education and support from our NHS we look forward to more life-changing transplants. We urge everyone to have a conversation about organ donation so they know what their loved ones decision is.”
The deemed consent will apply only to organs/tissues used in "routine" transplants. These are: heart; lungs; liver; kidneys; pancreas; intestinal organs; nervous tissue; blood vessels; bone; marrow; tendon; corneas; skin; and rectus fascia.
This is an additional safeguard to ensure that only organs and tissue used for routine transplants are included in the new system, to help those on a waiting list.
Express consent will be required for organs or tissues used in novel or rare transplants. These include:
- Tissue from sexual and reproductive organs, including eggs and sperm.
- Specific tissues will require express consent when needed for novel transplants
- The trachea will be considered as routine only when part of heart-lung transplantation
- Eyes will not be part of face transplants
The simplest way to record a decision is on the NHS Organ Donor Register website. However, it is also possible to tell a friend or family member or record it in writing.