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All about opt out

Organ donation law is changing

The Government in England intends to change the law on consent for organ donation. Under the new system (commonly known as ‘deemed consent’ or ‘opt out’), everybody would be considered a potential donor unless they have added their details to the NHS Organ Donor Register to say that they do not wish to donate their organs, or are in one of the excluded groups.

This would be a similar system to Wales. It is going to take some time for the law in England to be changed. Find out more about organ donation laws throughout the United Kingdom.

The Government has indicated that the new system may be in place from April 2020.

You can register your decision to save lives now by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register online now.

Why change the current organ donation system?

The aim of introducing a new system is to ensure that the overwhelming public support for organ donation is underpinned both within the legal system and in the NHS, and that a person’s decision to donate is upheld whenever possible.

NHSBT welcomes the Government’s commitment to the lifesaving power of organ donation. We support any initiative that leads to more organ donors and more lives being saved.

Organ and tissue donation saves or drastically improves the lives of thousands of people every year and there is very strong support for organ donation within the English population.

Over 80% of adults in England say they would definitely, or would consider, donating their organs, but only 37% of the UK population have registered as donors on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

However, at any one time there are around 6000 people on the transplant waiting list and on average three people die each day in the UK in need of an organ transplant.

Jade's wait for a liver transplant

Jade Gulliver who died waiting for a liver transplantJade Gulliver died aged 27 waiting for a liver transplant. She had viral hepatitis and left behind her two boys, Kai and Max.

Jade's sister Crystal said: “You hear about transplants on the telly but you never expect it to happen to someone you know.

“She kept getting sicker and sicker. I can’t explain what it was like - waiting every day for a phone call that never came. We take the boys to the bench we have in Jade’s memory for birthdays and anniversaries and we show them pictures. 

“I will be the first to admit before this tragedy, I also was almost ignorant to organ donation. Now I want to do everything in my power to prevent this from happening, so that no more families have to go through what our family has been through, and is going through.”

The current system in England

Under the current system, people who want to donate their organs ‘opt in’ or agree to donate after their death by signing up as a donor on the NHS Organ Donor Register and telling their family their decision.

If the person had not recorded a decision to donate, then our specially trained nurses sensitively provide information to their family to help them to reach a decision about whether organ donation should go ahead.

We urgently need more people to donate. Sadly, around three people die every day in the UK in need of an organ while more than 1,000 families say no to organ donation every year. Families who agree to donation say it helps with their grief and that they feel enormous sense of pride at knowing their relative gave others the chance of a new beginning.

What can you do?

We hope people will take time to think about organ donation, and make a decision about what they want. If they want to donate, people should sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register and discuss their decision with their family so that their intention to give the gift of life after death is fully understood. We also hope people will continue to take part in the national conversation about organ donation. 

Further information:


Register to be a donor