The month of May marks a vital change in law in the UK. Organ donation will no longer follow an opt-in process. Instead, all adults will be deemed to have given consent to organ donation unless they have explicitly declined or been exempted. This law is known as Max and Kiera's law after nine-year olds Kiera Ball and Max Johnson. Kiera's parents? decision to donate her organs helped save four lives including Max's, who was able to undergo a life-saving heart transplant.
The act of selfless service, or sewa, is one of the greatest traditions in the Hindu and Jain communities and organ donation is arguably the greatest gift we can give to others. The work of groups such as Jain and Hindu Organ Donation Steering group has been important in raising awareness of the law change and promoting organ donation within our community. We must continue this good work and help foster conversations around organ donation and its benefits within families and the wider community, so that more people make the positive decision to help save lives.
While this law change is a huge step forward, and will no doubt help to improve the survival chances of those in need of organ transplants, it will take more time to implement because of the impact of Covid-19. Also, the law change alone is not enough; active promotion, education within the community and increased public awareness are the keys to ensuring donation rates rise.
Ethnic minority patients have been more severely affected not just by the pandemic but also by the knock-on impact on organ donations and transplants. It is therefore more critical than ever that we help our communities and the wider public understand the significance of this law change and continue to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation and its significance for British Indians.