All Adults in England Will Automatically Be an Organ Donor From Now On

Organ Donation

Photo: Stock Photos from vchal/Shutterstock

Thanks to campaigning by one young boy, more people in England may see their lives saved due to organ transplants. Max and Keira's law, which went into effect on May 20, changes England's organ donor system. Now, instead of having to opt-in and sign up with the NHS Organ Donor Register, adults will all be considered organ donors unless they opt out of the system.

It's estimated that this could lead to 700 additional transplants per year by 2023, which is good news for those on waitlists. Typically, the NHS completes about 4,000 transplants a year, however, the UK Transplant List currently has about 6,000 people on it. In 2019, 400 people died while awaiting a transplant.

By changing the law, the health system is hoping to capture some of the 80% of adults in England who say they would consider organ donation. To put things into perspective, of that 80%, only 40% had actually taken the measures to opt in and register.

The change in the system was sparked by the story of Max and Keira. In 2017, nine-year-old Keira was in a horrific car accident with her family. While Keira, unfortunately, lost her life, her family decided that they would donate her organs when approached by the hospital. Keira's donation saved four lives, with her heart going to a young boy named Max.

Max's family then began campaigning for the new law, which was originally called Max's law. At Max's request, Keira's name was added.

“We never thought about organ donation, at the time we thought Keira would pull through,” recalls Keira's father Joe about being approached by doctors to donate her organs. “I looked at Keira, she was a really loving girl and she loved life. If she could help someone she always would, so it was a no brainer to help others. She was lush, if you could describe the perfect child—it was Keira. Everything about her, she was an angel.”

Now, every year to mark the anniversary of Keira's death and Max's transplant, the families get together to celebrate Keira's life. It's their hope that through the new law, more people will get to experience successful transplants.

Interestingly, other areas of the UK have already been practicing the opt-in system. In Wales it's been in place since 2015 and has caused a nearly-20% increase in the donor consent rate. A version of the opt-out system will go into effect in Scotland next year; meanwhile, Northern Ireland voted to remain with the opt-in system in 2016.

While all adults are considered organ donors in England now, it's still important for people who wish to donate their organs to speak with family members about their beliefs. Families will still be consulted prior to any organ donation and have the final say. The NHS has also stated that religious and ethical beliefs will always be respected.

England's organ donor system has become opt-in. The NHS explains how families will still be involved in the decision-making process.

The NHS is hoping this will cause 700 new transplants a year and, across the internet, people are sharing their uplifting organ transplant stories.

h/t: [Independent, The Guardian]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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