Current Affairs

Organ Donations: It’s out with the old and in with the opt-out system

In these unprecedented times, a rather important piece of news has passed many people unnoticed. A piece of news that will impact every life in England.

On 15th March 2019, the Organ Donation Bill received Royal assent and the change in the system was implemented on 20th May 2020. This new legislation means that all adults in England are potential organ donors, changing the past opt-in system to an opt-out alternative. 

The government website lists those who are excluded from the change in law, including children under the age of 18, people with disabilities that will prevent them from understanding the changes that have taken place, and individuals who have lived less than a year in England before their death.  

The change in law was encouraged by the disparity between those who supported donating and those who actually donated. Supposedly 80% of English citizens agreed with donating, despite only 38% opting-in. This not only means that the number of potential donors have been significantly reduced, but also that families faced a troubling decision as to whether to donate their loved one’s organs or not. This led to less than half of relations giving consent for their deceased family member’s organs to be donated.

In the bustling routine of daily life remembering to sign up to the list is easily forgotten. Conversations about death can equally be breezed over; an uncomfortable topic that many avoid having with their families. The opt-out system was introduced in the hope that the negative impact of these issues will be reduced, and a larger number of donations will be made. 

For those who do not wish to be on the Organ Donation Register, opting-out is easy to do. The NHS website and helpline provide an accessible way to ensure that individual wishes are met. 

Currently, there is a large queue of people who are waiting for an organ donation and the system changes hope to reduce this. There are more than 6,000 people in this situation, and each day approximately three individuals die waiting.

However, many families who have lost relatives are now rejoicing at the change of law by sharing their stories. Lee Weallans, who’s two-year-old son passed away while waiting for a heart transplant, told ITV news that “I just don’t want other families to have to go through that, with having the option now where it’s more likely that something may happen for them.”

However, there is one particular story that the law has been named after. Keira Ball died aged nine as a result of a car crash. The tragedy saved another child’s life after Max from Cheshire (also nine) received Keira’s heart after waiting 196 days for a donation following heart failure. Max is now twelve and thriving with his new heart and it was his story that inspired the name Max and Keira’s Law. 

Although we shouldn’t expect drastic change immediately, the government hopes that over time more lives will be saved by Max and Keira’s Law. It’s a small ray of hope for the NHS to be able to deliver help to more people than before in these troubled times.