I was delighted to be present in the House of Commons in my role as parliamentary private secretary to the department for health and social care to witness the final stages of the Organ Donation Bill.
The new law, which is expected to come into effect in spring 2020, will presume all adults over the age of 18 to be organ donors unless they have specifically recorded their decision not to be.
Under-18s, people with limited mental capacity and others who have not lived in England for at least a year prior to their death will be exempt from the scheme. This revolutionary change in legislation is expected to save hundreds of lives each year and will address the shortage of donors in our country.
In 1960, Sir Michael Woodruff performed the United Kingdom’s first successful organ transplant at The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Since then, continued advancements in medicine have enabled our health service to offer so many critically ill people a second chance in life through organ transplants.
However, over the past decade, almost 80 people have died in Derbyshire while waiting for an organ transplant whilst 500 people died in 2017 nationwide. Organ donation remains a very sensitive issue for patients and the families of donors alike, but I am extremely pleased that this is an issue that both the government and wider society are now talking about.
More than 80 per cent of adults in England say they would consider donating their organs, but only 37 per cent of the UK population have registered as donors.
This is why the issue of organ donation has been at the forefront of government policy for some time now and I wholeheartedly welcome the move to follow Scotland and Wales and introduce an ‘opt-out’ organ donation policy in England.
Recently, some critics have claimed that this policy will, in effect, mean that the state will now ‘own our organs’. I would like to make it very clear that this is not the case and reassure you that if you have an issue with organ donation, or do not believe in it, you will have the opportunity to opt-out, meaning that you will not become an organ donor. Organ donation is a personal choice and we will still have the right to say yes or no, enshrined in law.