On 20 May 2020, English law in relation to the donation of organs after death changed to an ‘opt out’ system, which means that all adults in England will be presumed to be organ donors unless they have specifically recorded their decision not to donate, or are in an “excluded group”.  This replaces the previous system whereby individuals opted in, typically by signing the NHS Organ Donor Register and is of course intended to help save and improve more lives.

The excluded groups include:

  • people who lack the mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and take the necessary action
  • visitors to England, and those not living in England voluntarily
  • people who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death.

An individual’s family will still be consulted before organ and/or tissue donation is made; the family may have important information that is more recent than any recorded decision on the NHS Organ Register and a person’s faith, beliefs and culture will continue to be respected.

If a person has not recorded a decision to either opt in or out, and is not part of an excluded group, their family will be asked whether they have any information about the individual’s wishes in connection with organ donation. If this information is not known, it will be considered that the person consented to donate their organs.

In light of this significant change of law, individuals may wish to speak to their family and loved ones about their views, and ideally record their organ donation decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and/or in other written communications to their family, perhaps alongside any funeral wishes. It is also worth noting that you are able to update the NHS Organ Donor Register should you change your mind about the decision you have made.

For more information you may wish to review the NHS website at: www.organdonation.nhs.co.uk-helping-you-to-decide.

Please contact a member of the Private Client team if you require any advice in relation to the recent changes to donation of organs or any other matter in relation to the consideration of your body or your assets after your demise.


Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.

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