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What is the opt out system in England?

This page provides answers to some of the most common questions about the upcoming changes to the law around organ donation in England.

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If you would like to speak to somebody about changes in the law, please call our dedicated line on: 0300 303 2094

What is changing?

The law around organ donation is changing in England. This means that from spring 2020, all adults in England will be considered an organ donor when they die unless they had recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.

This is commonly referred to as an ‘opt out’ system.

Why do we need an opt out system?

There has been tremendous progress in organ donation but there is still a shortage of donors. Last year, 411 patients died in the UK on the transplant waiting list.

When will the opt out system start?

The ‘opt out system’ will come into effect in spring 2020.  The exact date of when the new system will be implemented has not yet been confirmed by Government.

Will you automatically take my organs if I don't opt out?

No. Organ donation can only happen in a small number of cases. Around 500,000 people die every year in the UK, but only around 1 in 100 of them die in circumstances where they are able to donate their organs. 

Am I losing control of what happens to my body?

No. It will still be for you to choose if you want to be an organ donor. And if you don’t want to donate, it’s really quick and simple to record your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register. The quickest and easiest way to do this is online, but if you don’t have internet access you can call our contact centre on 0300 123 23 23.

Will you still ask my family's permission?

Yes. Families will continue to be consulted before organ donation goes ahead. 

Do these changes affect my children?

The opt out system does not apply to children under the age of 18 years old. In circumstances where a donation decision is required for someone under 18, the family will be asked to make that decision and provide consent.

Will my funeral plans be affected?

The surgery carried out to remove a donor’s organs is carried out by highly skilled professionals who take the same care and attention, and offer the same respect as they would in any operation to save a patient’s life. The surgical incisions are carefully dressed after the surgery and any end of life care wishes in relation to the washing and dressing of the body are respected.

Many donors go on to have an open casket funeral.

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What happens if I do nothing?

Once the new system comes into effect in England, if you have not expressed your decision to opt out of donation and are not in an excluded group, it will be considered that you consent to donate your organs. So even if you don’t record that you want to be an organ donor, it is important to let your family know what you want.

If you have specific instructions about which organs you would or would not like to donate, you should provide this information when you record your donation decision on the NHS Organ Donation Register

Can I change my mind?

Yes. If you have recorded an organ donation decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and want to update your details, or change or reaffirm your decision, you can complete the Amend your details form or call 0300 123 23 23.

It is important to share your decision to be an organ donor with your family. This will give them more confidence that they know that you wanted to donate and make it easier for them to honour your decision.

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