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.
Change in organ donation law in England from Spring 2020
The Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act, known as the 'opt-out’ Bill, is now an Act of Parliament (law). This Bill allows for consent to organ donation in England to lawfully be deemed where no record of a deceased individual’s wishes are recorded.
From spring 2020, every adult in England will be considered a potential organ and tissue donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate, or if they are in one of excluded groups.
Please visit NHSBT’s website for more information on what these changes mean under the new system, and to register your decision.
Other countries in the UK are also considering - or are in the process of - implementing changes to their laws on organ donation:
After debating the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill on 11 June, the Bill to move Scotland to an 'opt-out' system passed its final stage. It will most likely receive Royal Assent in the Summer, at which point it will also become law with an implementation date of 2020.
More information is available on the Scottish Parliament website.
Isle of Man
The House of Keys’ public consultation on introducing an opt-out system closed on the 8th June 2018. It is likely that the Bill will go through its next stages in spring 2019.
More information is available on the Isle of Man’s government website.
Please note that organ donation laws vary across different countries in the UK.
For information on the current legislation and any proposed changes around organ donation in Guernsey and Jersey, please visit NHSBT’s website.
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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