From 20 May 2020 the law around organ donation in England is changing.
What is organ and tissue donation?
Organ and tissue donation is the act of giving your organs and/or tissues to help save or improve the lives of others when you die.
One organ donor can save or transform the lives of up to nine people. Tissue transplants can also significantly improve a person’s quality of life. This might be a cornea to help someone see again, a replacement heart valve to treat a heart defect, or skin to treat severe burns.
Why is the law around organ donation changing?
Every day, someone in the UK dies in need of an organ, because not enough organs are available for transplant. But only 1% of people die in circumstances that would allow them to donate.
Most people support organ donation in principle and would be willing to donate their organs after their death. However, many people do not make this decision clear either by signing on to the NHS Organ Donor Register or telling their family. The change in law better reflects what most people want to happen and will help save and improve more lives.
What is changing?
From 20 May 2020, all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ and tissue donor when they die unless they recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups (see ‘Who will this change affect?’). This is commonly referred to as an ‘opt out’ system.
This means that if you have not confirmed whether you want to be an organ donor – either by recording a decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register or by speaking to friends or family – it will be considered that you agree to donate your organs when you die.
Organ donation remains an act of great generosity. You still have the right to choose whether or not to be an organ donor. Your family will still be consulted about donating your organs when you die.
When is the law around organ donation changing?
The ‘opt out’ system will come into effect in England from 20 May 2020. Once the law has changed it will be considered that you agree to be an organ donor if you are over 18 and:
- you have not ‘opted out’, or
- you are not in an excluded group
Your family will still be involved and your faith, beliefs and culture will continue to be respected.
Who will this change affect?
The new law will apply to adults in England, who also die in England.
It will not apply to:
- people under 18
- people who lack mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and take the necessary action
- people who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death
- visitors to England
- people who are not living here voluntarily
What do I have to do?
As the law around organ donation is changing in England from 20 May 2020, we want everybody to decide whether they want to be an organ donor and to share their decision with their family.
If you do want to be an organ donor, you can register to be a donor on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
If you do not want to be an organ donor, you can opt out by registering a ‘refuse to donate’ decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
If you have already registered your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and your decision remains the same, you should tell your family what you want.
If you have already registered, but want to change your recorded decision, you can do this simply at any time by completing the ‘amend your details’ form online.
What is the NHS Organ Donor Register?
The NHS Organ Donor Register is a secure database that holds the details of all those who have registered a decision about organ donation. It records whether or not someone wants to be an organ and tissue donor. For those who want to donate, it records which organs and tissues they want to donate. The Register can only be accessed by specialist NHS staff.
Recording your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and telling your family what you want are the best ways to help ensure your decision is honoured.
Remember, if you are over 18-years-old when you die, are not in an excluded group and have not opted out, it will be considered that you agree to be an organ and tissue donor.
Whatever you choose, it’s important to tell your family so they can support your decision. You should also tell them if you change your decision in the future.
To register your decision visit organdonation.nhs.uk.
Will my family still be asked about donating my organs after 20 May
Yes. The family of a potential donor will always be approached to discuss the option of organ and tissue donation. This helps to make sure that any decision recorded on the NHS Organ Donor Register is your latest known decision. A specialist nurse will work with the family to help ensure this is supported.
Your family can tell us about any particular requests or requirements you may have had to help ensure that organ donation goes ahead in line with your faith or beliefs.
Your family provide important information about your medical, travel and social history too. The information your family provides would help ensure your organs are safe for others to receive.
Find out more about your choices
There is a lot more helpful information about organ and tissue donation on our website:
organdonation.nhs.uk and on social media @NHSOrganDonor
When you have made your decision, it’s important to record it on the NHS Organ Donor Register and inform your family about your choice.
If you can’t find what you need on the website or are still unsure, you can call our dedicated helpline:
If you are hard of hearing please use our text relay service:
‘18001’ to 0845 730 0106
To use text chat, please SMS:
07860 034 343
You can also use the NHS App to register your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register.