Organ donation law: What is the opt-out system?

You may have heard that the organ donation law in England has changed – and learning what this means will help you when talking to your family about being an organ donor.

Here’s what you need to know about the opt-out system.

Organ donation law: What is the opt-out system?

Organ donation law has changed to an opt-out system in England and Wales – and will change in Scotland from 26th March 2021.

‘Opt-out’ in England means if you are over 18 you are considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when you die, unless you have recorded a decision not to donate or you are in one of the excluded groups. This change in organ donation law will help to save or transform the lives of people waiting for an organ transplant.

Need to know!

  • The opt-out system doesn’t apply for under 18s in England.
  • Northern Ireland still has an opt-in system.

Mother and daughter talking on sofa


Organ donation is still your choice

The main thing to know is that wherever you live in the UK it remains your choice whether or not to be an organ donor. Whatever you decide, you can record this decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register, so that everyone is clear. Talking to your family about it is really important to give them the certainty they need to support it.

When you register a decision to donate, you can also choose whether you want to donate some, or all, of your organs when you die. And you can change your mind at any time about your decision to be an organ donor just let your family know this too.

Hand holding felt heart over laptop


Loved ones will always be involved

Organ donation only goes ahead with the support of your family, so whatever your organ donation decision, the best thing you can do right now is talk it through with your loved ones.

If you die in circumstances where you can donate your organs, your family will always be involved before donation goes ahead. Only then is it determined if some, or all of your organs or tissues are suitable for transplant, at the time of donation. Amazingly, 9 out of 10 families in the UK support donation going ahead when they’re sure it’s what their loved one would have wanted.

Your faith and beliefs will always be respected before organ donation goes ahead.

In this video, families talk about how they had the conversation about organ donation - and why it’s so important to talk about your decision

Make time to talk about it

Although 80% of people in England are willing to donate some, or all of their organs when they die, less than half have shared this decision with their families. So don’t put off having the conversation with your loved ones.

Visit NHS Organ Donation to find out more about the opt-out system, your choices and to how to record your decision. Then chat to your family to give them the certainty they need to support it.