Government announce opt-out system for organ donation

The Government has today announced plans to change the law on consent for organ donation, following years of campaigning by the British Heart Foundation and others.

An “opt-out” system for organ donation will be introduced in the UK in a move that should save hundreds of lives a year, the government will announce today.

A new system of “presumed consent” is set to be introduced in England, in line with Scotland and Wales, in spring 2020 as part of a drive to help those people desperately waiting for a life-saving transplant.

The new law on organ donation will be called “Max’s law” after Max Johnson, 10, of Winsford, Cheshire, who was saved by a heart transplant in August last year. Max was seriously ill in hospital for six months waiting for a new heart.

It comes after Theresa May revealed she had been moved by the two-year crusade and backed our call for change.

Today ministers unveil details of the new system.

Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price said a government consultation on the reform received an “overwhelmingly positive” response from the public.

She said: “We’ve had 17,000 responses, which is unprecedented.

“This is an issue that has captured the public’s imagination with overwhelming support for the changes.

“We believe that by making these changes we can save as many as 700 more lives every year.”

The Daily Mirror called for everyone in the UK to be a potential donor unless they chose to opt out. Wales already has that system and Scotland has agreed to follow.

Under the proposals, the wishes of families and next of kin would continue to be respected, so organs will not be removed without their backing.

Ms Doyle-Price also stressed that organ donation will “remain a gift”, adding: “I want to encourage people who wish to give life in the event of their death to take time to record their wishes and discuss it with their family.”

The donor register will include an option for individuals to state religious and cultural beliefs to ensure they are respected.

The changes are expected to begin in England in spring 2020. Under-18s, people who lack the mental capacity to understand the changes and those who have not lived in England for at least 12 months before their death will be excluded from the plans.

Research shows that 82 per cent of Brits support organ donation, but only 37 per cent have recorded their wishes.

Max’s Law aims to minimise this gap so the decision does not fall to grieving families when a patient’s wish is unknown.

Currently less than half of ­families give consent for a loved one’s organs to be donated if they are unaware of their wishes.

Those who do not wish to donate their organs will still be able to record their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Fiona Loud, of Kidney Care UK, said: “For the 25,000 patients on dialysis in England, this means hope and a new future.”

Simon Gillespie, of the British Heart Foundation, added: ­“Introducing an opt-out system will give hope to those currently waiting for a transplant.”

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