Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

Deceased organ and tissue donation for transplants

Deceased organ and tissue donation for transplantation means donating your organs, part organs or tissue to someone in need of a transplant after you die.

The most common types of deceased organ or part organ transplants include kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas and small bowel.

Many kinds of tissue can also be donated after death including skin, tendons, bone, heart valves and eyes.

The Human Tissue Authority’s role

The HTA is the regulator for human tissue and organs in the UK. We oversee compliance with the Human Tissue Act 2004. We also oversee compliance with laws that ensure the quality and safety of organs, tissues and cells used for transplantation in the UK.

We also publish Codes of Practice that give professionals advice and guidance.

In recent years, there have been some changes to the way organ and tissue donation for transplantation works in the UK. Currently, organ donation laws vary across the different countries of the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

This page sets out how consent works in each country in the UK, and the choices you can make.

You can also download our leaflet on Your guide to consent for Organ and Tissue Donation in the UK.

Registering your decision whether or not to donate your organs and tissue


Regardless of where you live in the UK, the NHS Organ Donor Register allows you to record your decision about donating your organs and tissue after you die. The NHS Organ Donor Register allows you to say whether you wish to donate all of your organs and tissue, some of your organs and tissue, or none of your organs and tissue. It also allows you to appoint a representative to make this decision on your behalf after you die. You do not have to register your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register, it is sufficient for you to tell your family and friends of your decision or put it in writing.

If you do not want to donate your organs or tissue, and do not register your objection, your relatives will be given the opportunity to show evidence that you did not want to donate. You can also appoint a representative(s) to make the decision on your behalf after you die.

If you have registered your decision to donate, there is no legal right for your family to overrule your consent. However, families are involved in sensitive discussions about organ and tissue donation. For further information, please visit the NHS Organ Donation website.

England

The Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act 2019 introduced an ‘opt-out’ system of organ and tissue donation in England otherwise known as Deemed consent. This means that all adults in England are considered to have agreed to be an organ and tissue donor when they die, unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups. The law does not apply to people that die under the age of 18.

You can find out more and register your decision to opt-in or opt-out by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register and sharing your decision with your family. If you do not want to record your decision in this way you can simply tell your family and friends of your decision.

Wales

The Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 introduced an ‘opt-out’ system of organ and tissue donation in Wales otherwise known as Deemed consent. This means that all adults in Wales are considered to have agreed to be an organ and tissue donor when they die, unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups. The law does not apply to people that die under the age of 18.

For more information, please visit the Welsh Government’s website.

You can find out more and register your decision to opt-in or opt-out by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register and sharing your decision with your family. If you do not want to record your decision in this way you can simply tell your family and friends of your decision.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has an ‘opt-in’ system for organ and tissue donation meaning there is no presumption that you would want to be a donor after your death.

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.

You can find out more and register your decision to opt-in or opt-out by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register and sharing your decision with your family and friends. If you do not want to record your decision in this way you can simply tell your family and friends of your decision.

Other areas in the UK and their laws on organ donation

Scotland

The HTA does not oversee consent for deceased organ and tissue donation in Scotland.

From March 2021 Scotland will introduce an ‘opt-out’ system of organ and tissue donation otherwise known as Deemed authorisation.

You can find out more and register your decision to opt in or opt out by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register and sharing your decision with your family. If you do not want to record your decision in this way you can simply tell your family and friends of your decision.

For more information, please visit Organ Donation Scotland.

For more information on donation in Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man please see the NHSBT website.

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Last updated on: 27 Jul 2020