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Should I donate my organs when I die?

Around 6,500 people across the UK are waiting for an organ transplant at any one time. With Organ Donation Week on 4-10 September, we examine the latest on this emotive topic.

Each day in the UK three people die while waiting for an organ transplant, according to the NHS.

In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland someone’s organs and tissue will currently only be used if they have given consent. In Wales, however, people are now presumed to have no objection to donating their organs after death unless they have opted out by registering their objection on the NHS organ donor register.

It is generally found that countries with opt-out laws have 25-30% higher donation rates than those countries requiring explicit consent1. Last year, 39 of the 160 organs transplanted in Wales were from people who were deemed to have given their consent, using the change in the law.

Scotland has announced plans to follow in Wales’ footsteps and introduce a soft opt-out consent system for organ donation. This will mean that patients are assumed to have agreed to donation unless their families strongly object.

The British Medical Association has said that 65% of British adults approve of the soft opt-out system, and has been campaigning for the rest of the country to adopt it. However, the BMA also found that, although 66% said they would donate their organs at death, only 39% had signed the organ donor register.

How can I donate my organs?

In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland your organs and tissue will currently only be used if you have given consent. To do this, you should tell a relative or close friend of your wishes or join the NHS organ donor register here.

If you have lived in Wales for 12 months or longer, you are now presumed to have no objection to donating your organs and tissue after death unless you have opted out by registering this on the NHS organ donor register. You can also appoint a representative to make the decision for you after your death. If you do nothing or remove your name from the register, it will be assumed you have no objection to donating. This is called deemed or presumed consent.

Did you know?

Only around 5,000 people each year die in circumstances in which they can donate their organs.

Organs that can be donated are kidneys, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas, small bowel, corneas and tissue.

Scotland has the highest rate of registered donors per head of population among the UK countries, at 25.5 donors for every million.

On average, patients from the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities will wait a year longer for a kidney transplant than a white patient, due to the lack of suitable organs.

Find out more about organ donation - including registering your wishes - here.