One young life tragically lost, another courageously saved. As stories go, there are few more powerful than Max and Kiera’s.
Keira Ball was nine years-old when she died. Despite the unimaginable grief, Kiera’s parents bravely and selflessly chose to donate her organs, including her heart to a young boy, Max Johnson, who was in desperate need of a transplant. Max recovered from his operation and has been a champion of the new opt-out system for organ donation, now commonly known as Max and Kiera’s Law.
I am extremely proud to have taken Max and Kiera’s Law through Parliament. The changes mean that from Wednesday, every adult in England will be considered to be a donor unless they opt-out or are excluded.
First and foremost, this Law is about saving lives. Our NHS does a fantastic job but demand for organs heavily outweighs supply. There are currently 5,000 people in the UK, who – just like Max was – are living under a cloud of uncertainty, waiting and hoping for an operation that will save their life.
One of the many devasting knock-on consequences of the coronavirus is the impact it’s had on those in need of an organ transplant. Operations are down by two-thirds and the number of people dying while waiting for a transplant has sharply risen. The coronavirus is putting huge extra strain on a system already massively under pressure.
As well as offering hope to families, I believe Max and Kiera’s Law will also benefit society by helping bring people together. The decision Keira’s parents took was an act of compassion that represents the best of humanity, a lesson in solidarity from which we can all learn.
The new organ donation system will not be a silver-bullet solution. We all still need to play our part. The government must ensure our NHS has the resources to perform transplants and maintain its public awareness campaign so people understand the changes. This is especially important in our BAME communities, who are often worst affected. We also have a responsibility to record our choice on the NHS’s Organ Donor Register and crucially, to tell our loved ones what our intentions are.
The coronavirus has left thousands of families in mourning, shattered our economy and upended our entire way of life. Good news is in short supply. The implementation of Max and Kiera’s Law affords us a rare moment of hope. The hope more lives will be saved and the hope that we too can act with decency and empathy, even in the worst of times.