How to opt-out of being an organ donor

Organ donation law changed this week in a bid to save and improve more lives. It is hoped the automatic enrolment for organ donors will mean more organs are available to help those who are desperately in need and are on waiting lists. But how can you choose not to be an organ donor?

The law around organ donation in England has changed meaning all adults in England are now considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die.

They will, therefore, be considered as donors unless they have previously recorded a decision no to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.

The new law does not take away the choice you have whether to become a donor but is thought to be a step towards saving more lives such as the 408 patients in the UK who last year died while on the transplant waiting list.

The new system came into effect in England on May 20 after the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill received royal assent in March.


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Who can sign up to be a donor?

Anyone in the UK is allowed to register to become an organ donor after death.

To donate organs after death, a person needs to die in hospital in specific circumstances.

Specialist healthcare workers will decide in each individual case which organs and tissue are suitable for donation.

There is no age limit for becoming an organ donor, but children who are under 12 in Scotland and under 18 in the rest of the UK at the time of registration require agreement from their parent or guardian to sign up as a donor.

Who is exempt from the automatic enrolment?

There are certain groups of people who are not included in the law such as:

  • People aged under 18
  • People who lack the mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and take the necessary action
  • People who have lived in England for less than 12 months or who are not living here voluntarily.

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Can you be an organ donor if you have a medical condition?

Having an illness or medical condition does not necessarily exempt you from becoming a donor.

Instead, it is contingent on whether your organs and tissue are suitable for transplant.

However, a person cannot donate if they have or are suspected of having:

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
  • Ebola virus disease
  • Active cancer
  • HIV

How to opt-out of being an organ donor

Organ donation is a personal choice so if you do not want to donate you are under no obligation to do so.

Those living in England, Wales or Jersey and are not in a group excluded from opt-out legislation will be registered to opt-out of organ donation.

You can register your refusal to donate with the NHS here.

You are also advised to discuss your decision with your family and loved ones.

There is no time limit for your decision meaning you are free to register your choice at any time.

If you previously registered your decision to donate or not to donate, you can opt for your details to be withdrawn meaning there will no longer be any recorded decision for you on the register.

In the opt-out system, if there is no recorded decision for you and therefore it will be considered that you agree to donate your organs after death unless you are in an excluded group.

Once you have registered to opt-out of organ donation, your decision will be added to the NHS Organ Donation Register and will be respected in the event of your death.

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