All English adults are now automatically enrolled as organ donors, thanks to a change in the law.
‘Max and Keira’s Law’ has introduced an ‘opt-out’ system for organ donation in the UK, which means consent is presumed for all adults. Previously, people would have had to opt in to be able to donate organs.
The law change also takes place in Wales, with Scotland following suit next March.
The law is named after two children who helped to save multiple lives after they sadly died.
The proud parents of nine-year-old Keira, who helped saved the lives of four people, want to dispel the negative stories of organ donation, with the new law expected to save hundreds of lives each year.
Keira tragically died in a car accident in August 2017. Her mum Loanna and younger brother Bradley were also seriously injured.
The little girl’s organs went on to save the lives of four other people, including young boy Max Johnson, who received her heart.
The new organ donation law was inspired by Keira after Max and his family campaigned in favour of an opt-out system.
The law became known as Max’s Law in recognition of families’ campaigns. Max asked for Keira’s name to be added in her honour.
Mum Loanna, 35, of Barnstaple, North Devon, said: “If your child needed an organ to survive, you would do whatever you could to try and get an organ. So you have to look on the flip side, if you’re going to receive an organ you have to be prepared to give one.”
Dad Joe, 37, said: “We never thought about organ donation, at the time we thought Keira would pull through.”
Joe said he was approached by the organ donation team and was asked if he had ever thought about it.
He said: “I looked at Keira, she was a really loving girl and she loved life. If she could help someone she always would, so it was a no brainer to help others.
“She was lush, if you could describe the perfect child – it was Keira . Everything about her, she was an angel.”
Joe said that parents in a similar position can be concerned about the appearance of their child following the organ transplantation but should be reassured.
He added: “We’ve had families contact us who are worried about donating their child’s organs after they’ve passed, they are concerned about the appearance of their child after organ donation.
“Keira looked perfect after her organs were donated – you would not be able to tell the difference. She didn’t look broken.”
Joe and Loanna, who have three other children, hope the government will continue to educate people on organ donation to get rid of any misconceptions surrounding the new ‘opt-out’ regime.
Joe added: “We’d like to see education for young children in schools. We visit schools to do talks about organ donation, afterwards a lot of children have the discussion with their parents -education is the key to get rid of all the horror stories.”
They said that people considering organ donation should speak to their family members and friends about their wishes regarding organ donation.
Joe said: “The only issue with the law is even if you don’t opt-out; your family will get the last say. It’s important that you speak to your family about your wishes.
“If people feel so strongly about organ donation, then they will make the effort to opt-out but people who are on the fence may not opt-out. Hopefully this will guarantee that more organs will be available.”
The family hopes this will open the conversation for people who may never have thought of organ donation.
Every year, on the anniversary of Keira’s death and Max’s organ transplant -the two families meet to mark the special day and celebrate Keira’s life.
Joe added: “It’s a massive loss we’re never going to replace, but after seeing Max and how poorly he was – it is nice to see how far he has come.”