Years ago I filmed a documentary in Singapore where the number of organ donations was higher than anywhere else in the world, and the difficulty in procuring transplant organs had evaporated.
Why? The Singaporean government had declared an opt-out scheme for organ donation. That is, if you don’t stipulate you don’t want your organs to be used to save the lives of others when you die, they’ll be used in transplant patients.
I backed this approach and did my best to get it adopted in the UK but failed. So imagine my joy, then, when the Daily Mirror campaigned, and as a result, the Government announced that from next year, consent for organ donation will be presumed unless people have opted out.
The change in rules could save up to 700 lives by increasing the number of organs available.
There are currently around 6,000 people on the transplant waiting list in the UK according to the NHS. Last year more than 400 patients died while waiting for a suitable organ according to official figures from the Organ Transplant Waiting List.
Under the new system, people will be encouraged to register their consent for organ donation, or to opt out. It will still be open to relatives to block a donation, so it will be important that families discuss their wishes openly together.
At the moment, organ donation in England follows the “opt-in” rule. This means that anyone who wants to donate organs after they die must sign up as a donor on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
According to the NHS, there is an urgent need for more donors to sign up as about three people in need of an organ die every day in the UK.
Currently if someone dies and is not registered as an organ donor, nurses will speak to the person’s family to discuss whether or not they will allow their relative’s organs to be used.
How will the organ donation law change affect you in 2020? By then, the system will change to “opt out” or “deemed consent”. This means when you die you’ll be considered a potential organ donor if you’re eligible.
If you don’t wish to donate your organs, you must put your details on the NHS Organ Donor Register to say you don’t want to participate, or that you are in one of the excluded groups.
You can also nominate two people to help make the decision about what happens to your organs – such as a family member or religious leader.