Patients awaiting transplants have hailed a ‘game-changing’ new law which from today means that every adult is automatically considered an organ donor.
Under the legislation everyone in England will be deemed to have given consent for their organs to be donated when they die – unless they specifically opt out or are in an excluded group.
It is believed this method will lead to an additional 700 transplants each year by 2023.
The new legislation is known as ‘Max and Keira’s law’ after the death of nine-year-old Keira Ball saved the life of Max Johnson, also nine, and three other people.
Keira’s father allowed doctors to use her organs for transplants following a car crash in 2017.
The new law comes into force from today, although health minister Lord Bethell has admitted the system could be delayed due to the coronavirus crisis.
He told the House of Lords on Monday: ‘The legislation will come into effect on May 20. However, we acknowledge that this may not come into practice straight away due to the limitations of Covid.’
During the coronavirus pandemic, many transplants have not been performed due to patient safety concerns.
Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant show just 99 transplant operations took place in April, compared with 244 in March.
Douglas Craft, 73, who has been on the waiting list for a kidney for two years, said the timing of the law change coinciding with the pandemic has been unfortunate.
He said: ‘It’s the best policy really, but it’s such a waste of organs, that’s the only trouble. If it was a safer environment it would be fine.’
Mr Craft, a retired butcher from Chichester, had a kidney transplant in 2000 which lasted 18 years. He is hopeful another match might come up when transplants in his area are able to resume.
Welcoming the law, he said: ‘I’m hoping it’s going to be a change for the better, giving more transplants for everybody.’
He added that he looked forward to a time when donating organs is ‘taken for granted’ and it is ‘just a part of living and dying’.
Steve Burton, 58, who is also waiting for a transplant, has been self-isolating with his wife since early March in Blackpool, Lancashire.
He said while he has been ‘terrified’ of contracting Covid-19, the legislation has boosted his morale.
He added: ‘It’s a game-changer now because obviously I’m looking for the gift of life from somebody, and the fact that a lot more people now are in that window for me to receive that gift, it’s only a good thing for me.’