Health Ethics Organ Donation Opt-out Team

Health Ethics Organ Donation Opt-out Team

Organ donation: Engagement with the faith communities on proposals for an “opt out” system of consent for organ donation in England

Over 40,000 people in England are alive today following a transplant. But over 5,000 people are on a waiting list for an organ. Eighty per cent of people say they would be willing to donate their organs and tissue after they have died. But only thirty seven per cent of people are registered as donors. In October 2017, the Prime Minister announced the intention to change the law on consent for organ donation to better reflect the fact that most people support organ donation. 

Following the successful passage of the new law, from 2020, unless someone has opted out of organ donation or is excluded, they will be considered to be a potential organ donor. 

This new law is known as “Max’s and Keira’s law, in honour of 10-year old Max Johnson who received Keira Ball’s heart following Keira’s tragic death in a car accident. The ambition for the new system is to increase the number of organs available for transplantation to better meet the demand for life saving or transforming transplants. 

Faith and culture play an important part in people’s decision around donating organs. Ministers recognised that the proposals were likely to affect people from different backgrounds in different ways. The consultation document set out the Government’s thinking on which of the protected characteristics were likely to be affected. These were primarily around faith and race and recognising the inequality in the number of available donors especially from BAME communities, asked specific questions to understand these issues in more detail. With one in five people who die waiting for an organ from a BAME background, it was important that the change should have a positive impact on inequality.