Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

Deceased organ donation FAQs

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 European Union Organ Donation Directive, which was transposed into UK law via 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 establishments across the UK by undertaking on-site visits to 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, which are published here.

Further information on our role can be found here.  

Yes, it is possible in some circumstances to donate organs and/or tissues from infants. Advice should be sought from medical professionals if such a situation occurs.

Further information on the diagnosis of brain stem death in infants and children can be found here

Deceased donation in the UK is unconditional and subject to clinical priority. However, in some exceptional cases people 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. 

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

The EU Organ Donation Directives aim to align standards in the field of organ donation across the European Union, making sure that where organs are exchanged, the standards of quality and safety are maintained.  

On some occasions when a person dies, their organs and/or tissues might be suitable for use in transplantation.

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

Brain stem death - This is where a person no longer has activity in their brain stem due to a severe brain injury. They have permanently lost the potential for consciousness and the capacity to breathe. This may happen even when a ventilator is keeping the person's heart beating and oxygen is circulated through their blood.

Circulatory death – this is the irreversible loss of function of the heart and lungs after a cardiac arrest from which the patient cannot be resuscitated. It can also be the planned withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from a patient within the Intensive Care Unit or the Emergency Department.

Having a previous medical condition or being older does not always prevent you from becoming an organ or tissue donor.

For more information, please visit NHS Blood and Transplant’s website.

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

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

Where consent has been given by the donor in life, but relatives object to organ or tissue donation proceeding, then relatives should be sensitively supported to respect the donor’s consent, to ensure his or her wishes are fulfilled. A relative’s objection does not nullify appropriate, valid consent from the prospective donor.

In practice however, if a family feel strongly that they cannot support the donation proceeding, despite staff answering their questions and concerns, donation does not go ahead.

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

NHS Blood and Transplant has also published information on consent.

Please see FAQs for further information

In England and Northern Ireland

In England and 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. Before organs can be removed, stored or used for transplantation, appropriate consent must be obtained. The HTA’s role is to provide guidance on what constitutes lawful consent to organ and tissue donation, after death has been diagnosed.  

The NHS Organ Donor Register operates throughout the UK and allows you to record your decision. It allows you to state whether you wish to donate all of your organs and tissues or some of your organs and tissues. It also allows you to register an opt out decision. Your family will not be approached about organ donation if you have registered an opt out decision.

The register also allows you to nominate a representative to make a decision about organ donation on your behalf. If there is no record of your wishes, consent can be obtained from a person nominated by you to act on your behalf. If no one has been nominated, a person in a ‘qualifying relationship’ immediately before your death can make a decision. 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.

Further information about our role can be found here.

The public guide to the code of practice is available here.

NHS Blood and Transplant also publish information about organ donation and this is available here.

In Scotland:

The HTA’s remit does not extend to Scotland in terms of consent for organ donation.  However, we do licence and undertake on-site visits of each Transplant Centre in Scotland to ensure the requirements set out in the Regulations under the European Union Organ Donation Directive are met.

A separate piece of legislation, the Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006, applies to Scotland and professionals working in the field of organ and tissue donation will work under that legislation. Any adult or child aged 12 and over, who is able to make their own decisions can give permission for their organs or tissue to be donated. Children under the age of 12 cannot give permission themselves. If a child under the age of 12 dies, only their parent or guardian can give permission for their organs or tissue to be donated.

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 or some of your organs and tissues. It also allows you to register to opt out of organ and tissue donation. Your family will not be approached about organ donation if you have registered an opt out decision.

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.

Further information about organ donation in Scotland is available here.

A useful information leaflet published by the Scottish Government is available here.

In Wales:

Since December 2015, a deemed consent system has been operational in Wales. The Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 allows for consent to deceased organ 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.

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 or some of your organs and tissues. It also allows you to register to opt out of organ donation. Your family will not be approached if you have registered an opt out decision.

Where no decision is recorded on the Organ Donor Register (either opt-in or opt-out), individuals will be treated as having no objection to donating their organs. This is called "deemed consent".

Further information about our role can be found here

The HTA’s Code of Practice on the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 is available here.

The Welsh Government also publish useful information about the system in Wales available here