From spring 2020, all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die, unless they have recorded a decision not to donate, or are in one of the excluded groups. This is commonly referred to as an ‘opt out’ system. You may also hear it referred to as ‘Max and Keira’s Law’.
Why is the law changing?
Every day, around three people die in need of an organ, because not enough organs are available for transplant. However, only 1% of people die in circumstances that would allow them to donate. The law is being changed to help save and improve more lives.
When is the law changing?
The opt out system in England will come into effect from spring 2020. The law around organ donation in England will remain ‘opt in’ until this time.
Every day, around three people die in need of an organ.”
Which groups are excluded from this change?
- Those under the age of 18
- People who lack the mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and take the necessary action
- Visitors to England, and those not living here voluntarily
- People who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death
What do I have to do?
Whatever you decide, make sure you tell your family, so that they can help to ensure your choice is honoured. If you want to be an organ donor, you can choose to donate some or all of your organs by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register.
If you do not want to be an organ donor, you should register a ‘refuse to donate’ decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register. This is also known as opting out.
If you are already registered on the NHS Organ Donor Register, and your decision remains the same, you should tell your family what you want.
If you want to change your decision, which is already registered on the NHS Organ Donor Register, you should amend your registration.
What if there is no information on the NHS Organ Donor Register about my wishes?
If there is no recorded decision for you on the NHS Organ Donor Register, it will be considered that you agree to be an organ donor when you die. Your family will be asked for any information that shows whether or not you wanted to donate.
Organ donation remains an act of great generosity. Adults covered by the change in the law will still have a choice about whether they want to be an organ donor and their families will be consulted about donating their organs when they die.
If you would like to speak to somebody about your choices, please call a dedicated line: 0300 303 2094.
From spring 2020, all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they opt out
What is the NHS Organ Donor Register?
The NHS Organ Donor Register is a database that holds the details of all those who have registered a decision about organ donation, whether they have decided to donate or not. Registering on the NHS Organ Donor Register and telling your family are the best ways to ensure your decision is honoured when you die.
What are the current statistics about organ donation in the UK?
- 6272 people are waiting for a transplant in the UK (as of 29th July 2019)
- 1158 people have received a transplant since April 2019
Organ donation law in Wales
The legislation for Wales is ‘deemed consent’. This means that if you haven’t registered an organ and tissue donation decision (opt in or opt out), you will be considered to have no objection to becoming a donor.
You can still opt in to the register if you want to do so, but it is not required in order to give consent for donation. You can also nominate up to two representatives to make the decision for you. These could be family members, friends, or other people you trust, such as your faith leader. This legislation was introduced in December 2015.
Organ donation in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland
The current legislation for Scotland and Northern Ireland is to opt in to organ and tissue donation. You can do this by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register and sharing your decision with your family. You can also record a decision not to be a donor.
The Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill, which includes provision for a ‘deemed authorisation system’, was published by the Scottish Government in June 2018 for consideration by the Scottish Parliament. The date for the change to legislation is not known, but it is likely to be several years before it is implemented.
Following detailed consideration of the issue, the Northern Ireland Assembly decided in 2016 not to proceed with any changes to the basis of consent for organ donation. However, they introduced a new statutory requirement for the Department of Health to promote organ donation as a means of increasing the number of organs available for transplantation.
Specialist transplant centres in Ireland were responsible for 231 transplants from 80 donors in 2018.
In Ireland, the position is also to opt in to organ and tissue donation, which is facilitated by Organ Donation Transplant Ireland, who manage the overall process of donation and retrieval in Ireland. They work closely to support families at the time of their loss and throughout the journey of donation.
There are three specialist transplant centres in Ireland which were responsible for 231 transplants from 80 donors in 2018. Last year, Minister for Health, Simon Harris, obtained approval to move ahead with legislation to provide a ‘soft’ opt out system of consent.
Under this system, when a person dies, consent would be deemed to have been granted unless the person, while alive, registered their wish not to become an organ donor. The ‘soft’ element of it is that the next of kin will always be consulted before an organ is removed.