There are 4,350 people in the UK waiting for an organ donation at present. I have long held that as a country we can do more to help those in need of organ transplants. I believe the most effective way to do this is to increase the number of potential donors through the introduction of an opt-out system of organ donation.
Under the current opt-in system, people must register to become an organ donor. This means we are reliant on potential donors not only thinking about it but also finding the time to sign up. However, the system in place in Wales – and in many countries across Europe – is opt-out. This means that people must take the active step of stating that they do not wish their organs to be donated. For those who take no action, they are deemed to have given consent.
The evidence from Wales suggests that the move to an opt-out system has dramatically increased the number of organs available. Recently, the Scottish Government announced it planned to introduce a similar system in Scotland. Since 2017, I have been campaigning for us to have an opt-out system of organ donation in England too.
Any change would have to be accompanied by a strong set of safeguards to ensure that no one’s organs were donated against their wishes. There would also need to be an active public awareness campaign to ensure that people were aware of the change and to encourage more people to take the positive step of becoming potential organ donors.
- July 2017: I asked the First Secretary of State whether the Government planned to introduce an opt-out system of organ donation in England. You can read my question and the First Secretary’s response here. Watching on were the family of Max Johnson – a nine year old who has been waiting for a heart transplant for six months. You can read more about his story here.
- July 2017: I led a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament arguing for an opt-out system of organ donation. You can read the content of that debate here.
- July 2017: My colleague, Geoffrey Robinson MP, introduced his Private Member's Bill in Parliament to move to an opt-out system of organ donation in England.
- December 2017: The Government announces a consultation on the introduction of an opt-out system of organ donation in England. Read about the consultation here.
- August 2017: Max Johnson receives a life-saving heart transplant.
- February 2018: MPs back the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill. The Bill now moves onto the committee stage.
- August 2018: The Health Minister announces the details of the proposed opt-out organ donation scheme and confirms that the legislation will be referred to as "Max and Keira's Law".
- October 2018: I led the Bill through its final stage in the House of Commons, where it passed unanimously. You can read the content of that debate here.
- February 2019: The Bill was passed by the House of Lords.
- March 2019: The Bill received Royal Assent and became known as the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act 2019. 'Max and Keira's Law' is at last on the statute book.
- May 2020: The provisions of the Act - an opt-out system for all adults in England apart from those in an excluded group - came into force.
I am very proud that our campaign to introduce an Opt Out organ donation system has succeeded. It will save lives and give hope to many. I would like to thank everyone who made the Bill's passage possible. The Bill's sponsor, Geoffrey Robinson MP; everyone at the Daily Mirror who campaigned tirelessly to change the law; Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May for their support, and the Health Minister who guided the Bill through Parliament, Jackie Doyle-Price MP.
Most of all, I would like to thank Max Johnson and his mum, Emma, for the dignity and courage they have shown throughout the campaign. Max is the 10 year old boy who fronted the Daily Mirror's campaign. He would not be with us today had it not been for the incredibly brave decision of Keira Ball's family last August, who donated their daughter's heart and saved Max's life. This Act is for Max, and for all those desperately waiting for a life saving operation.
This Act will save thousands of lives and give hope to those on organ donor waiting lists.