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Can an opt-out organ donation policy help save lives?

A new law called “Max and Keira’s Law” may help to lower the number of people who die each year in the UK while waiting on an organ transplant. Instead of signing up as an organ donor on an online register, residents of England will give implied consent to donate their organs unless they opt-out.

According to New Scientist, the system is already in place in Wales and has been proposed in Scotland. The new law in England was named for nine-year-old Keira Ball, who had four of her organs donated after a car accident. One of the recipients, nine-year-old Max Johnson, received a life-saving heart transplant. Each year in the UK, hundreds of patients die while waiting for a transplant.

Individuals who want to opt-out as organ donors will simply add their name to the NHS Organ Donor Register. Because of the trauma that is involved when people pass suddenly, the families will actually have the final say for those who do not opt-out as donors.

Good candidates for organ donation are mostly young and healthy individuals that have been involved in a car accident. The patient usually has a traumatic head injury which has left them brain dead, but their heart is still beating and they are on life support. This allows the organs to remain in good enough condition to be donated.

Claire Wilson explains in New Scientist that the new opt-out system will not completely resolve the shortage of organs needed for transplants, but there is hope that it may increase the number of families who give their consent for organ donation. In the time since Wales introduced its opt-out system in 2015, the consent rate has started to increase.

According to the National Health Service (NHS) in England, more than 80 percent of adults in England say they would consider donating their organs, but only 37 percent are registered as donors on the NHS Organ Donor Register. The new law is expected to take effect in April of 2020.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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