Find out the facts about the organ donation law change

12 February 2020

NHS Blood and Transplant is urging people to find out the facts about organ donation and the upcoming law change, which is due to come into effect in England on 20 May 2020.

Several posts and messages recently shared across social media and WhatsApp have contained incorrect information about the change in the law about organ donation.

Some messages claim that ‘the deadline is tomorrow’ and that all residents in the UK are now automatically on the NHS Organ Donor Register. These messages have been reported particularly within black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

In fact, there is no deadline – people will be able to register their decision at any time before or after the law change – and people are only included on the NHS Organ Donor Register if they have formally registered their decision to opt in or out.

Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, says: “Organ donation remains a choice and families will still be involved in any donation decision. It is absolutely an individual’s choice whether they want to register as an organ donor or to opt out. We want to ensure that people are making the right decision for them based on facts rather than misinformation. Once a person has made their decision, we encourage them to let their friends and family know and consider registering their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register.”

From the time the law changes, all adults in England will be considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die unless they record a decision not to donate, what’s known as ‘opt out’, or are in one of the excluded groups. Those excluded will be people under 18, people who have lived in England for less than 12 months or who are not living here voluntarily, and people who lack the capacity to understand the change.

Wales already has an opt out system, after changing their law in December 2015. Jersey introduced the opt out system in July 2019 and Scotland will also be moving to an opt out system in March 2021.

Over 6,000 people are currently waiting for a transplant, and yet only 1% of people die in circumstances where organ donation is possible. Of those who join the register, only a small percentage go on to actually become an organ donor.

The most important priority for a medical team is always to do everything they can to save the life of their patient. Organ donation would only ever go ahead with the family’s agreement and once all life saving measures have been exhausted and clinicians confirm that the patient has died.

Dr Nighat Arif is a British-Pakistani Muslim GP and mum to four-year-old Qasim who received a liver transplant. She has been campaigning to raise awareness and ensure that people across the country have access to the facts and information they need to make an informed decision about organ donation.

She says: “It is so important that people have access to the correct facts and accurate information. If you receive a message via social media - stop, think and take a moment to do your own research. The NHS has produced some really helpful information, which can help explain how the law is changing and help you make the decision which feels right for you. It remains entirely your choice, whether to register as an organ donor or opt out. Regardless of the change in the law, organ donation will always remain the most precious gift, only possible thanks to the incredible generosity of the donor and their family who support their decision.”

You can register your organ donation decision today. Once you have registered your decision, be sure to tell your close friends and family your organ donation choice.