Organ donation law to change to 'opt out' system from Wednesday, May 20

Organ donation law to change to 'opt out' system from Wednesday, May 20

by Danielle Thompson (May 2020)

THE law around organ donation is changing on Wednesday (May 20) – and chiefs at the NHS are asking families to talk about their decisions during Dying Matters Awareness Week.

Organ donation is changing in England, subject to finalising the Parliamentary process and under the new law, 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, (known as ‘opting out’), or are in one of the excluded groups.

Those excluded will be people under 18, those who lack the mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and take the necessary action; people who have lived in England for less than 12 months or who are not living here voluntarily and those who have nominated someone else to make the decision on their behalf.

Anthony Clarkson, director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “It is important that people know they will still have a choice whether or not to donate. Families will still be consulted, and people’s faith, beliefs and culture will continue to be respected. Where the individual hasn’t expressed a decision, specialist nurses will support their families to make a decision, based on what their loved ones would have wanted. If the decision is not to donate, this will be honoured and upheld.

“Very few people die in the circumstances where organ donation is possible so every organ donor is precious. Organ donation will not go ahead if a potential donor tests positive for Covid-19. “However, there are still life saving organ transplants taking place at this time, bringing hope to seriously ill patients on the Transplant Waiting List.

“This year during Dying Matters Awareness Week, we are asking everyone to talk about organ donation. Not only is it important to register your choice but also to discuss your decision with your family and friends.

“Even though the law around organ donation is changing, there is no deadline to making your donation decision, you can register your choice at any time. Your family will always be involved in discussions about the possibility of donation, so it is vital you share your choice with them, whether you are with them in person, or are staying connected via a chat over the phone or on family Zoom or Skype calls.”

The main theme for this year’s Dying Matters Awareness Week, which runs until May 17, is ‘Dying to be heard.’ It encourages people to also consider the other side of conversation – not just talking but listening too. If you’ve already made your organ donation decision, do you know the decision of those around you? If organ donation becomes a possibility, relatives find it much easier to support a loved one’s decision if they already know what they wanted.

You can register your choice on the NHS Organ Donor Register. For more information, whether you decide to opt in or opt out, visit

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