A New Era for Organ Donation
The shortage of organs is acute. To ensure that the UK can safeguard the supply of organ donation, the law is taking a new approach.
Previously, the law was found in the Human Tissue Act 2004. The storage and use of almost all human tissue, including organs, was covered by the central organising principle of ‘specific consent’. This reflected the right of individuals to decide what is done to their body. However, this position has been challenged through the years as more people died waiting for a transplant.
On 20 May 2020, the UK introduced an ‘opt-out’ system, as a way to increase organ supply in the UK. Essentially the ‘opt-out’ system presumes people have consented by default to be potential donors after their death unless they have formally indicated otherwise. If any objection has not been registered then family members will still be given the opportunity to confirm whether the individual had any unregistered objection and to take part in discussions regarding their loved one’s organ donation.
It is worth mentioning that the same system was introduced by Wales in 2013 and statistics show that the ‘deemed consent’ system increased the rate of donation in Wales from 49% to 59% in 2015/16.
By introducing an ‘opt-out’ system, the UK will increase the potential for more donors and it will boost public awareness as to the shortage of donations.
If you do not wish to donate your organs after your death, you can record your organ donation decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and inform your family and friends of what you have decided. We recommend that you consider your views on organ donation at the same time as making your will.
Your wishes regarding donation can be recorded in a letter of wishes that accompanies your will. This ensures your loved ones are fully aware of your preferences on this issue. Should you wish to discuss any of these matters further, please do contact either Chryso Loizides or Natasha Hejabizadeha in the Wills, Trusts and Probate department.