Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

Deceased organ donation

Please see below for a number of frequently asked questions from a specific category. Simply select one of the questions of interest, the answer will then appear below. For the complete list of categories please visit the main FAQs page.

The HTA regulates organ donation and transplantation under The Quality and Safety of Organs Intended for Transplantation Regulations 2012 and the Quality and Safety of Organs Intended for Transplantation (Amendment) Regulations 2014.

The HTA audits licensed hospitals in all UK countries by undertaking on-site visits to help ensure that each hospital that is licensed meets the requirements set out in the Regulations.

You can read the audit reports for each licensed hospital on our find an establishment page.

Find out more about our role in organ donation and transplant

The NHS Organ Donor Register operates throughout the UK and allows you to record your donation decision. It allows you to state whether you wish to donate all of your organs and tissues (opt in), some of your organs and tissues (opt in), or none of your organs or tissues (opt out).

The register also allows you to nominate a representative to make a decision about organ and tissue donation on your behalf. This means that if there is no record of your decision, a decision can be made by the person nominated by you to act on your behalf.

If you register on the NHS Organ Donor Register to be a donor, and donation is a possibility when you die, then a dedicated nurse specialising in organ donation will support your family, let them know of your decision, and help to honour it. If you register not to donate, your family will be informed and that decision will be honoured.

Find out more about our role in deceased organ donation.

Download a public guide to Code of Practice F.

NHS Blood and Transplant publish information about organ donation and tissue donation on their website also.

Since May 2020, a deemed consent system has been operational in England.

The Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act 2019 allows for consent to deceased organ and tissue donation to be deemed to have been given when a person both lived and died in England. There are however a number of exceptions to this. These are:

  • you have said you do not want to donate your organs and tissues (you have "opted out");
  • you have appointed a nominated representative to make the decision for you after your death; or
  • you are in one of the excluded groups (under the age of 18; ordinarily resident in England for less than 12 months before death; or lacked mental capacity for a significant period before death).

The NHS Organ Donor Register operates throughout the UK and allows you to record your donation decision. It allows you to state whether you wish to donate all of your organs and tissues (opt in), some of your organs and tissues (opt in), or none of your organs and tissues (opt out).

Where no decision is recorded (either opt in or opt out), individuals will be treated as having no objection to donating their organs and tissues. This is called "deemed consent". If you register on the NHS Organ Donor Register to be a donor, and donation is a possibility when you die, then a dedicated nurse specialising in organ donation will support your family, let them know of your decision, and help to honour it. If you register not to donate, your family will be informed and that decision will be honoured.

Since December 2015, a deemed consent system has been operational in Wales. The Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 allows for consent to deceased organ and tissue donation to be deemed to have been given when a person both lived and died in Wales; there are however a number of exceptions to this:

  • you have said you do not want to donate your organs and tissues (you have "opted out");
  • you have appointed a representative to make the decision for you after your death; or
  • you are in one of the excluded groups (under the age of 18; ordinarily resident in Wales for less than 12 months before death; or lacked mental capacity for a significant period before death).

The NHS Organ Donor Register operates throughout the UK and allows you to record your donation decision. It allows you to state whether you wish to donate all of your organs and tissues (opt in), some of your organs and tissues (opt in), or none of your organs and tissues (opt out).

Where no decision is recorded (either opt in or opt out), individuals will be treated as having no objection to donating their organs and tissues. This is called "deemed consent". If you register on the NHS Organ Donor Register to be a donor, and donation is a possibility when you die, then a dedicated nurse specialising in organ donation will support your family, let them know of your decision, and help to honour it. If you register not to donate, your family will be informed and that decision will be honoured.

Find out more about our role in deceased organ donation.

Download the HTA’s Code of Practice on the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 (PDF).

Further information about organ and tissue donation in Wales is available on the Welsh Government website.

The HTA’s remit does not extend to Scotland in terms of consent for organ and tissue donation. 

The NHS Organ Donor Register operates throughout the UK and allows you to record your decision about organ donation. It allows you to state whether you wish to donate all of your organs and tissues (opt in), some of your organs and tissues (opt in), or none of your organs and tissues (opt out). 

It allows you to appoint a representative to make this decision on your behalf. If you register on the NHS Organ Donor Register to be a donor, and donation is a possibility when you die, then a dedicated nurse specialising in organ donation will support your family, let them know of your decision, and help to honour it. If you register not to donate, your family will be informed and that decision will be honoured.

Further information about organ and tissue donation in Scotland is available on the Organ Donation Scotland website.

In Northern Ireland, the removal, storage and use of organs or part organs from a deceased person for transplantation is governed by the Human Tissue Act 2004.

Consent must always be given expressly by the potential donor before their death, or by a nominated representative or a person in a qualifying relationship after death.

Deemed consent does not apply in Northern Ireland.

The NHS Organ Donor Register operates throughout the UK and allows you to record your decision about organ donation. It allows you to state whether you wish to donate all of your organs and tissues (opt in), some of your organs and tissues (opt in), or none of your organs and tissues (opt-out). 

It allows you to appoint a representative to make this decision on your behalf. If you register on the NHS Organ Donor Register to be a donor, and donation is a possibility when you die, then a dedicated nurse specialising in organ donation will support your family, let them know of your decision, and help to honour it. If you register not to donate, your family will be informed and that decision will be honoured.

Further information about organ and tissue donation in Northern Ireland is available on the Organ Donation Northern Ireland website.

Yes, it is possible in some circumstances to donate organs and/or tissues from infants. Advice should be sought by medical professionals if such a situation occurs and, where appropriate, a referral made to a Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation.

Download further information on the diagnosis of brain stem death in infants and children from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (PDF).

Deceased donation in the UK is unconditional and subject to clinical priority. However, in some exceptional cases you can request that an organ/s be given to a family member or close friend who is waiting for an organ transplant on the national waiting list.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is the body that has legal responsibility for organ allocation across the UK. As a matter of policy, NHSBT does not accept organs from deceased donors where any restriction is attached. However, requested allocation of a deceased donor organ to a specific recipient can be considered if this is carried out in line with NHSBT policy. This is set out in the following policy: Introduction to Patient Selection and Organ Allocation Policies Appendix 1 (Requested Allocation of a Deceased Donor Organ (PDF).

Yes. There are rare occasions where an exchange of organs between countries takes place. This means that patients in the UK benefit from an organ transplant they otherwise may not have received.  NHSBT facilitate and organise this on the occasions when it occurs.

On some occasions, when a person dies in certain circumstances, their organs and/or tissues might be suitable for use in transplantation. Most people do not die in circumstances where organs are suitable for transplantation.

Suitable organ donors are those that fall into one of the following categories:

Brain stem death - Where a patient, whose death has been diagnosed and confirmed using neurological criteria, continues to be ventilated. This keeps the heart beating and blood circulating after death, until after donation takes place.

Circulatory death – Where the patient was not ventilated at the time of death. Donation therefore occurs after death is diagnosed and confirmed using cardiorespiratory criteria. Having a previous medical condition or being older does not always prevent a person from becoming an organ or tissue donor.

More information about who can donate can be found on the NHS Blood and Transplant website.

Donated organs can only be used for the purposes for which consent is in place. The NHS Organ Donor Register can only be used to register decisions in relation to organ and tissue donation for transplantation.

Expressed consent can be given separately for research and other purposes (called “scheduled purposes”) set out in the Human Tissue Act 2004.

Deemed consent in England and Wales only applies to the donation of organs and tissues for transplantation. It does not apply to donation of organs and tissue for any other purpose.

If the family of the potential donor object to the donation where appropriate consent (whether expressed or deemed) is in place, the specialist nurse will discuss the matter sensitively with them. If a family feel strongly that they cannot support donation proceeding, donation does not go ahead.

It is very important to discuss your donation decision with your family; this makes the decision easier for families at a very difficult time.

NHS Blood and Transplant has also published information on consent.