Government consultation on “Opt Out” organ donation closes in 9 days

The Department of Health is responsible for a public consultation on the existing legislative system for organ donation in England. The DOH’s role is to provide a reliable source of information and to continue to champion the crucial role organ donation plays in reducing unnecessary deaths caused by a shortage of donors.

The aim of the consultation is to establish what more could be done in England to ensure that the overwhelming public support for organ donation is reflected both within the legal system and in the NHS and that a person’s decision to donate is supported whenever possible.


Under the current system people, who want to donate their organs ‘opt in’ or agree to donate after their death by signing up as a donor on the NHS Organ Donor Register and telling their family their decision. If the person had not recorded a decision to donate then NHS Blood and Transplant staff sensitively provide information to their family to help them to reach a decision about whether organ donation should go ahead.


Under the new system, individuals are automatically registered as organ donors, unless they state otherwise. This would increase the number of donated organs and ensure more lives are saved. The “opt out” system polled support to the tune of 74% in a recent British Heart Foundation survey, with a similar system already in place in Wales.

The defining issues of the new system are:


  • how much say families have in their deceased relative’s decision to donate their organs
  • when exemptions to ‘opt-out’ would be needed, and what safeguards would be necessary
  • how a new system might affect certain groups depending on age, disability, race or faith


Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said:

We welcome the Government’s commitment to the lifesaving power of organ donation, which is demonstrated by the desire to hold a consultation into an opt out system.

“We support any initiative which leads to more organ donors and more lives being saved.

“We hope people will join the national conversation about organ donation that the consultation brings. Whatever the consultation decides, make sure your family know what you want. If you support organ donation, act today by telling your family you want to donate and join the NHS Organ Donor Register.”

Key statistics (UK wide)

  • There are 6,482 people on the active transplant waiting list, including 155 children, as of November 24th.
  • Last year there were 3,713 transplants thanks to deceased donors.
  • Between April 1 2017 and November 19th 2017, there 952 deceased donors. Over the same period in the previous year, there were 872 deceased donors. During the full 2016/17 financial year there were 1,413 deceased donors.
  • Last year 3,144 families were asked to agree to organ donation. Although 1,972 supported donation, 1,172 families said no. In countries with mature opt out systems, typically many more families support donation. In Spain, for example, fewer than 20% of families refuse to donate.

Those who want to take part in the consultation before it closes can do so here