Max Johnson dedicates organ donor law change to girl who gave him her heart

Punching the air in delight, Max Johnson marks the organ law ­victory that could help put an end to the needless deaths of patients on transplant waiting lists.

And with maturity beyond his years, the 11-year-old dedicated the triumph to his heart donor Keira Ball and the families of other sick children who died before organs became available.

After a three-year Mirror campaign, Max and Keira’s Law will reverse pre­sent rules so people are deemed to be donors unless they opt out.

Today it passed the final committee stage in the Lords after peers agreed to withdraw ­amendments which could have derailed the bill as it ran out of time.

It could now be granted royal assent within a fortnight, a move that may save thousands of lives.

Max of Winsford, Cheshire, ­celebrated with his pet hamster Geoff, named after fellow campaigner MP Geoffrey Robinson.

The youngster, who became the face of our campaign as he waited for a heart transplant said: “I feel like, ‘Yes! We’ve done it.’

“There are three people dying every day in the UK waiting for a transplant. They are all part of someone’s family. I know five patients who died while I waited for my heart in hospital.

“I remember the tears running down the faces of their parents, they were so, so upset. This law is for them, and for Keira.”

Max’s civil servant dad Paul, 45, added: “I will raise a glass to the Mirror. Well done.”

Keira’s parents Joe and Loanna Ball, of Barnstaple, Devon, saved Max’s life after agreeing to donate the organs of their nine-year-old daughter who died in a car accident.

Train fitter Joe, 35, said: “This is fantastic. It means that Keira’s name will be remembered for ever, and that is such a big thing for us.

“Thanks goodness the Lords did not delay, it means many lives will be saved in the years to come.”

Loanna, 34, added: “We are over the moon and so very proud of Keira. I have shed a few tears.

“It is a very lengthy process, so for now everyone must keep talking.”

British Transplantation Society president and surgeon Professor Lorna Marson said: “Everyone working in the transplant community is very pleased.

“We are at the beginning of a journey to bring about a cultural shift which raises the profile of organ ­donation so that these decisions can be made easier were that dreadful situation to happen.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “I’m a passionate supporter of organ ­donation so I’m delighted that this Bill has passed the Lords.

“I hail the Mirror for their inspiring campaign, Max and Keira’s law will save thousands of lives across the country, and is something we can all unite behind.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn , who presented Max with a Mirror Pride of Britain award last year, said he was “delighted” the law had cleared what could be its the final hurdle.

He added: “Max’s hard work and ­dedication to the campaign, and Keira’s parents’ strength, have been inspirational.

"I’m pleased Keira’s memory will live on with Max in the law they helped to create. These two young people will be remembered for their remarkable contribution to saving lives.”

Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “This is wonderful news and brings us a step closer to a change in the law.

“Throughout the campaign Mirror readers have never wavered and I pay tribute to them. Many people on the organ donor waiting list will have been given an extra hope.”

The victory came after Labour MP Mr Robinson tabled a Private Members’ bill to change the law from the current system where people choose to be registered as donors.

The opt-out law could come into force by 2020 in England as it allows for a year of “transition” to the new system. Bereaved relatives will still have the final say but ministers said the change could save up to 700 lives a year.

It follows the policy in Wales which we revealed this week now has ­Britain’s highest consent rates since its own 2015 law change.

The Government has also promised an £18million public awareness campaign on TV, radio and social media to get families talking about their wishes should the worst happen. Last year, 411 people died while waiting on the transplant list.

A further 755 were removed, mainly because they had become too ill and who died shortly ­afterwards. Eight out of 10 people on the list are waiting for a new kidney.

Kidney Care UK director Fiona Loud said: “This gives everyone waiting for a kidney great hope of increasing the number of transplants through the gift of organ donation.

“The new law is a ­positive step towards reducing the number of people who die every day waiting for a transplant.” The current UK-wide “consent rate” has 67% of families agreeing to donate a loved one’s organs after their death.

With the law change the ­Government plans to increase that to 80%. Ministers have also pledged to increase the number of specially trained nurses who advise families ­immediately after a death.

The only thing that could stop the law going to the next stage now is a late amendment within the next two weeks. This is thought unlikely given the unanimous support across all major parties.

Peers heard yesterday that nine of the 10 best performing countries on organ donation all have presumed consent. Around 24 European ­countries have opt-out donation, including France, Austria and Croatia.

The major sticking point to Max and Keira’s law had been an ­amendment by Tory and former surgeon Lord McColl of Dulwich. He wanted it written into law that the change would be reviewed in five years.

The peer withdrew the ­amendment after government whip Baroness Manzoor said it would commission an independent review after 12 months.

Lord Philip Hunt, who sponsored the bill through the House, said: “I’m delighted that the bill got through without any amendments.

“I’m now hopeful we could speed it through to royal assent and get it through by February.”

Jackie Doyle-Price, the minister most involved in the bill, added: “These events moves us one step closer to changing the law, but it is still important that those who wish to donate and give the gift of life take the time to record their wishes and discuss it with their family.”

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