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Ethics briefing
  1. Charlotte Wilson1,
  2. Veronica English2,
  3. Olivia Lines2,
  4. Ruth Campbell2,
  5. Julian C Sheather2,
  6. Sophie Brannan2
  1. 1 Department of Medical Ethics and Human Rights, British Medical Association, London, UK
  2. 2 Department of Medical Ethics, British Medical Association, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Charlotte Wilson, Department of Medical Ethics, British Medical Associationm, London WC1H 9HW, UK; cwilson{at}bma.org.uk

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Opt-out for organ donation in the UK

On 26 February 2019, the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill completed its passage through the Westminster Parliament, creating the legislative basis to introduce an opt-out system for organ donation in England. The Bill now awaits Royal Assent, following which it is anticipated that the new system will come into effect in spring 2020. In the intervening period, there will be a significant publicity campaign to inform the public about the change in the law and the options open to them, which are to:

  • Opt out of organ donation, if they do not wish to donate organs after their death.

  • Make a positive statement of their wish to donate by signing up to the Organ Donation Register.

  • Nominate someone to make the decision for them.

  • Do nothing and their consent will be ‘deemed’ (i.e. it will be assumed that they consent to donation after death).

The family will continue to be consulted and as an additional safeguard, will be able to provide information about any unregistered objections held by the individual before they died.

The legislation follows a similar model to that which was introduced in Wales on 1 December 2015. While it is too early to draw firm conclusions from the experience in Wales, the early signs are positive. The latest full-year data (for 2017/2018) show an increase from 61 to 74 deceased donors over the previous 12 months;1 and in the first three-quarters of 2018/2019, there have been 72 deceased donors.2 Given the number of donors is small and subject to natural variation year-on-year, National Health Service (NHS) Blood and Transplant has been analysing cumulative data to identify …

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