Organ Donation and the Law
The issue of organ donation is very current at the moment. In Spring of 2020 the law around it in England is changing. From then all adults (over 18s) in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ and tissue donor when they die unless they recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups. Currently you have to “opt in” rather than “opt out”.
As well as discussing the situation with your family (which is very important, as they need to understand your views), you should register your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register. This is a secure database that holds the details of all those who have registered a decision. It also records which organs and tissues are to be donated. The Register can only be accessed by specialist NHS staff.
The gift of an organ or tissue can benefit so many people and one organ donor can save or transform the lives of up to nine people. We have all heard of liver, kidney or even heart transplants but a donation could also include a replacement heart valve to treat a heart defect, or skin to treat severe burns, or even a cornea to help someone see again.
The law is changing because around three people die each day across the UK who are in need of an organ but only 1% of people die in circumstances that would allow them to donate.
I expect most of us would support organ donation if asked, but have we done anything about expressing that wish to support? Just because the law is changing does not mean that you have lost the right to choose. It just means that you now have to register your wishes if you choose not to donate, by registering a “refuse to donate” decision on the NHS Organ Donation Register.
The new law will not affect those adults who lack mental capacity to understand the new arrangements nor does it affect people who have lived in England for less than 12 months or who are not living here voluntarily.
Considering organ donation is something that we all need to do so why not do so, and review your Will and make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) at the same time. It could save your family a lot of anguish at a very difficult time.
Claire Warner, Associate Legal Executive