The removal, storage and use of organs or part organs from a deceased person for transplantation is governed by the Human Tissue Act. The underlying principle of deceased donation is that organs and tissues can only be removed with appropriate consent.
Registering your decision to donate
Donating your organs after your death can help those in need of a transplant. The NHS Organ Donor Register operates throughout the UK and allows you to record your decision about donating your organs. It allows you to say whether you wish to donate all of your organs, some of your organs, or none of your organs. It also allows you to nominate a representative to make this decision on your behalf. Organ donation can often bring comfort to families who have lost a loved one; with the knowledge that other lives may have been saved. Please do discuss your decision with your family.
Organ donation in England and Northern Ireland
The Human Tissue Act is the law which governs consent for organ donation in England and Northern Ireland. At the heart of the law is the principle that the decision to use your organs for transplantation rests first and foremost with you. If your decision to donate, or not to donate, is registered on the Organ Donor Register, then as long as no one forced you to make the decision, you were aware of your actions, and had the information you needed, your decision is legally valid.
If you registered on the Organ Donor Register to be an organ 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 have not made a decision or nominated a representative, the law allows family members to make this decision on your behalf.
Download the HTA's leaflet on organ donation in England and Northern Ireland: 'Your guide to consent and organ donation'
As of 1 December 2015, there is a new system for organ and tissue donation in Wales as part of the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013. The HTA’s role is to ensure that clinicians in Wales comply with the law. We do this by publishing a Code of Practice, which gives clinicians advice on making sure valid consent exists before organ donation takes place.
This new system creates a new type of legal consent in Wales called deemed consent. This means that unless you registered or expressed a decision not to donate your organs after your death, you will be regarded as having no objection to donation. Your consent will be deemed to have been given, unless you fall into one of the exemptions or if your family and friends can show that you did not want to be a donor. You can register your decision to donate using the NHS Organ Donor Register or by telling your family or friends. If you do not want to donate, and do not register your objection, your relatives will be given the opportunity to show evidence that you didn’t want to donate. You can also appoint a representative to make your decision on your behalf. If you have registered your decision to donate, there is no legal right for your family to override your consent; however families will still be involved in discussions about organ donation. For further information, please refer to Organ Donation Wales.
If you have expressed or recorded a decision to donate, your consent will be legally valid. If donation is a possibility when you die, a dedicated nurse specialising in organ donation will help to honour your decision. They will support your family and let them know your decision.
If you have expressed a decision not to donate, your decision will be respected. You will not become a donor as you have not given consent, nor can your consent be deemed.
If you have not expressed a decision, and you lived and died in Wales, your consent may be deemed. This means you may become a donor. If your family can show that you objected to donation, but had not recorded this on the NHS Organ Donor Register, your consent cannot be deemed. If your family is unaware of your decision, your consent will be deemed.
Download the HTA's leaflet on organ donation in Wales: 'Your guide to consent and organ donation' (in English)
Download the HTA's leaflet on organ donation in Wales: 'Your guide to consent and organ donation' (in Welsh)
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