Is organ donation law changing?

Organ donation laws vary in different countries across the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man. This page outlines the current legislative position for each of those areas. 

Organ donation law – opt in, opt out, deemed consent

Whatever laws are in place where you live, and whatever your own decision is about organ donation, it is vital to tell your family if you want to be an organ donor. The family is always consulted should donation be possible, so it’s important they know what you want.

Organ donation law in England

The current legislation for England is to opt in to organ and tissue donation. You can do this by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register and sharing your decision with your family.

In summer 2018, the Government published a response to its consultation into the organ donation system in England.

The Government confirmed that under the proposed new system (commonly known as ‘deemed consent’ or ‘opt out’) everybody would be considered a potential organ 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. They have provisionally indicated that the system may be in place in April 2020.

As it will still be some time for legislation to pass through Parliament and to implement the new system, it is important that people in England continue to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register if they want to donate, and tell their family their decision.

You can also record a decision not to be a donor, or you can nominate a representative to make the decision for you. This could be a family member, friend, or someone else you trust, such as your faith leader.

Organ donation law in Wales

The legislation for Wales is ‘deemed consent’. This means that if you haven’t registered an organ and tissue donation decision (opt in or opt out), you will be considered to have no objection to becoming a donor.

You can still opt in to the register if you want to do so, but it is not required in order to give consent for donation. You can also nominate a representative to make the decision for you. This could be a family member, friend, or someone else you trust, such as your faith leader.

If you only want to donate certain organs, or you do not want to be an organ donor, you can opt out on the Welsh organ donation register.

This legislation was introduced in December 2015. Find out more information about the Welsh legislation change.

Organ donation law in Scotland

The current legislation for Scotland is to opt in to organ and tissue donation. You can do this by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register and sharing your decision with your family. You can also record a decision not to be a donor.

The Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill, which includes provision for a 'deemed authorisation system', was published by the Scottish Government on 11 June 2018 for consideration by the Scottish Parliament. The date for the change to legislation is not known but it is likely to be several years before it is implemented.

Organ donation law in Northern Ireland

The current legislation for Northern Ireland is to opt in to organ and tissue donation; you can do this by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register and sharing your decision with your family. You can also record a decision not to be a donor.

You can also nominate a representative to make the decision for you. This could be a family member, friend, or someone else you trust, such as your faith leader.

Following detailed consideration of the issue, the Northern Ireland Assembly decided in 2016 not to proceed with any changes to the basis of consent for organ donation. However, they introduced a new statutory requirement for the Department of Health to promote organ donation as a means of increasing the number of organs available for transplantation.

Every five years the Department will be required to provide the Northern Ireland Assembly with advice about whether efforts to promote organ donation have been effective, and any recommendations it considers appropriate for amending the law to further promote transplantation.

Organ donation law in Guernsey

Guernsey currently supports an ‘opt in’ to organ and tissue donation model. You can do this by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register and sharing your decision with your family. You can also record a decision not to be a donor.

Guernsey’s Committee for Health & Social Care has undertaken a consultation on introducing deemed consent and will be presenting proposals to the States of Guernsey later this year.

Organ donation law in Jersey

The current legislation for Jersey is to opt in to organ and tissue donation; you can do this by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register and sharing your decision with your family. You can also record a decision not to be a donor.

In April 2018 the Jersey States Assembly passed legislation that will see the Island moving to a ‘deemed consent’ system, but with the ability for individuals to ‘opt out’ if they wish. The new legislation will not take effect before July 2019 and current arrangements remain in place until then.

In the meantime, it is important that anyone who wants to be a donor records this decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and speaks to their family.

Organ donation law on the Isle of Man

The current legislation in the Isle of Man is to opt in to organ and tissue donation, you can do this by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register. You can also record a decision not to be a donor.

In March 2018 the House of Keys launched a public consultation to seek input from citizens on an ‘opt out’ system. The consultation closed on the 8th June 2018 and the results will inform the next steps of the legislation.

Page last updated 1 August 2018