Getting to the heart of Max and Keira’s Law



Originally published at, written by Aaron McDonald

Getting to the heart of Max and Keira’s Law 1

In 2017, a nine-year-old girl from Devon tragically died in a car accident. Her name was Keira Ball, and her untimely death broke the hearts of those who knew and loved her. But, out of the worst circumstances came a gift of life for four people, including 11-year-old Max Johnson.

Max was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy — a disease of your heart muscle where it becomes stretched and thin. This means that it’s unable to pump blood around your body efficiently. But his life was saved when he was gifted with Keira’s heart.

Thanks to relentless campaigning from Max, Keira’s legacy is living on in Max and Keira’s Law, which the Government announced last year. As the law changes on May 20, we’re here to answer questions around the new legislation.

What is Max and Keira’s Law?

England has historically adhered to an opt-in scheme when it comes to organ donation, meaning that we have had to register our interest to donate our organs.

However, this change in law in England means that the opposite will be in effect and everyone over 18 will be considered organ donors, unless we decide to opt out.

To ensure that this is a success, it is important that you have a conversation with your loved one so that they know what you want to happen with your organs when you die.

What if I don’t want my organs to be donated?

While everyone will be considered a presumed organ donor, it is not mandatory. That is why it is so important that you make your wishes known to your loved ones.

Those who do not wish to donate their organs will be able to opt out by registering on an the Organ Donation Register. You can’t opt out on behalf of somebody else. All of the major religions and belief systems in the UK also support the opt-out system.

Is there any evidence that the change in law will be effective?

Nine of the ten countries that have the highest organ donation rates follow an opt-out system, with Spain leading the way. The country has the highest rates of organ donation and the shortest waiting list for transplantation. The only country that does not follow an opt-out system in the top ten is the United States.

Which organs can be donated?

The organs that you can donate are the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and small bowel. However, you can also donate your tissues, including the cornea and bone.

Can I still donate my organs if I have any underlying health conditions?

Just because you have had an underlying health condition, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot donate your organs, although it may limit what you can donate.

However, if you currently have, or are suspected of having, one of the following conditions, then you are unable to donate your organs:

*Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
*Ebola virus disease
*Active cancer
*Active Covid-19

If you have previously had cancer but it is no longer active, then it may be possible for to still donate your organs three years after treatment, depending on the type of cancer.

How many people are waiting for an organ?

According to the NHS Blood and Transplant, there are currently 4,913 people waiting for an organ in the UK, 349 of which are waiting for a heart or a heart and lung transplant as of 7 May 2020.

Providing hope

Put simply, donating your organs can save a life. Max and Keira’s Law has long been championed by the British Heart Foundation, and the new law will provide a lifeline to thousands of people and their families for years to come.

If you liked reading this, why not try:

  • Let’s keep a lockdown on toxic air
  • Head of BHF Northern Ireland: Supporting people who need us most
  • On the NHS frontline: Vanessa’s story

Originally published at

Getting to the heart of Max and Keira’s Law 2

Getting to the heart of Max and Keira’s Law was originally published in British Heart Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.