So far, 2020 has been consumed with the Covid-19 global pandemic and its devastating impact around the world. Whilst this has been the focus, there have been other changes within the medical profession that shouldn’t go unnoticed. One such change is the legal terms surrounding organ donation which changed in May this year. Many believe this change to the way organ donation functions will be very positive going forward.
What has changed legally and why?
An ‘opt out system’ has now been applied to organ donation in England. This means that if you are not from an excluded group (visitors to England, people under the age of 18, people who lack the mental capacity, those not living in England voluntarily, those who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death) and you have not actively confirmed that you do or don’t want to be an organ donor, it will be believed that you agree to donate an organ when you die. As the NHS has no age limit on becoming an organ donor, there is no deadline for this decision to be made by you. There will continue to be post-death considerations made based upon the person’s beliefs, faith and culture and family will also still be consulted in any decisions.
This legal change is necessary because despite positive progress in organ donation over the last ten years there is still a “worrying shortage” of donors. Currently it is understood that roughly one third of people have told their family they wish to donate their organs when they die – England has one of the lowest organ donation consent rates after death in Europe.
How will the change impact England?
In 2015 a similar law was passed in Wales which has led the country to have the highest organ donation consent rate in the UK. It went from 58% to 77% in 2015 after the legal change took place. Scotland is due to make the same legal change later this year.
A blog by Sharon Banga on The Law Society website states: “In the UK, three people die every day due to a lack of a suitable organ donor. One donor has the potential to donate up to nine organs. It is hoped that moving forward, once the impact of the legal change is realised and public awareness increases, similar increases will be seen in England and Scotland, with hundreds of lives saved each year.”
How can I make a difference?
It’s simple: make your feelings about organ donation known! It’s important to be clear about your wishes and talking to your loved ones is a great way to do that. As well as expressing your wishes verbally, it’s a good idea to state them in your will. If you don’t have a will, get in touch with Wolf Law. We draft wills at competitive prices and offer personal and efficient customer service.