Changes to the Organ Donation Law in England

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Changes to the Organ Donation Law in England

June 5th, 2020, Legal Updates, News

On 20 May 2020, organ donation in England moved to an ‘opt out’ system which is sometimes referred to as ‘Max and Kiera’s Law’. The change means that any adult who dies in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor unless this person is in one of the excluded groups or has recorded a decision not to donate. The new ‘opt out’ system replaces the old one whereby people opted in by signing the NHS Organ Donor Register.

The new law on the donation of organs after death has sparked numerous conversations on organ donation.

Why has the law on organ donation changed?

Organ and tissue donation means giving one’s organs and/or tissues after death in order to save or improve the lives of others. Organ and tissue donation is an act of great generosity, as by agreeing to donate one can save or change the lives of up to 9 people.

While around 3 people per day in the United Kingdom die waiting for an organ, many people support the idea of organ donation in principle and would be willing to donate. Unfortunately, most of them do not inform their families of that decision or make it clear by signing on to the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Who will be affected by the change?

All adults in England, who are not either in one of the excluded group or have opted out, will be affected by the change. The following people will be excluded:

  • people under 18;
  • people who lack mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and, thus, cannot take the necessary action;
  • people who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death; and
  • people who are not living in England voluntarily.
What action will need to be taken? When will it need to be taken?

Firstly, one will need to record the decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register. There is no deadline. People can register their decision at any time.

Secondly, one will need to inform the friends and family of the decision. This is particularly important, as families of potential donors will always be consulted before the organ and/or tissue donation is made. This is done to ensure that the recorded decision is the latest known decision of the donor, take into account any particular requirements or requests of the donor and proceed in line with the donor’s faith or beliefs. Useful information about the donor’s medical, travel and social history can be collected from the donor’s family as well.

Will one’s organs automatically be donated if the person has not opted out?

According to the NHS, no automatic donations will take place. The donor’s family will always be approached to discuss the option of organ and tissue donation to ensure that the donor’s opinion is respected.

Can donors change their mind?

If the donor has recorded an organ donation decision and wants to change or reaffirm it, the donor needs to complete the ‘amend your details’ form or give the NHS a call on 0300 123 23 23.

If you have a question, please do not hesitate to contact James Cohen directly on [email protected] or 0207 822 2257.

© 2020 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.



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