Organ Donation: the new ‘opt-out’ system coming spring 2020.

Whilst 80% of people in England support organ donation only 38% have opted in.

According to NHS figures:

  • 6,168 people are waiting for a transplant in the UK.
  • 2,626 have received a transplant since April 2019.
  • 3 people die each day while on the transplant waiting list.

From spring 2020 all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to donate their organs unless they have specifically opted out, informed family of their wish to opt-out or fall within an excluded group.  

The new system is coming into effect to increase organ donation and help people get the transplants they desperately need.

The new system 

The change will affect all adults in England unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the following excluded groups:

  • People under 18 years.
  • People who lack the mental capacity to understand the new arrangements.
  • Visitors to England, and those not living here voluntarily.
  • People who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death.

Your family will always be approached to discuss the options available so your organs and tissues will not automatically be taken.  Hence, it is important that you discuss your wishes with your family so that they are aware and will help make the decision easier for them at such a difficult time.  When families know what their loved one would have wanted, they are more likely to honour their wishes.

Your faith and beliefs will also be taken into consideration before organ donation goes ahead.

Until the new system is implemented medical staff will continue to check the NHS Organ Donor Register to see whether you are a donor and speak to your family to ascertain your wishes. 

What can I donate? 

You can donate some or all of your organs for example, your heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas or small bowel.  You can also choose to donate bodily tissues such as corneas or bone.  

Under the new system, it will be considered that you consent to donate any of your organs.  If you wish to specify which organs you would like to donate, you should still register as a donor so the specialist nurse in organ donation will have your wishes on record to discuss with your family.

It should be borne in mind that the Government are still consulting on whether certain organs should be excluded from the opt-out system.  It is currently anticipated that the opt-out system will only include routine transplants.  For rare and novel transplants such as limbs, face or uterus, your family would need to give explicit consent.

How do I opt-out? 

Decisions can be made through the NHS Blood and Transplant’s website by completing the online ‘refuse donation’ form or by calling the helpline on 0300 123 23 23.  You should also discuss your wishes to opt-out with family and friends.  

You are also able to document your decisions under the ‘preferences’ section of a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney, in a Will or via any accompanying note or letter of wishes left with either document.

What if I’m already a donor and change my mind? 

If you have already registered, but want to change your decision, you can do this at any time by completing the ‘amend-your-details’ form online.

If you would like any further information please contact either Jeremy Duffy, Annika Bell, Kerry Sawyer or Beth Johnson in our Private Wealth team.


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