The law  

The law in Scotland has changed to an opt out system to help save and improve lives.

Organ and tissue donation law in Scotland

The Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Act 2019 provides for a system of deemed authorisation for organ and tissue donation for transplantation purposes. This is commonly known as an opt out system. 

The law covers the processes surrounding organ and tissue donation, including the role of the family and routine medical procedures and tests that would need to be carried out on a potential donor to ensure that transplantation is likely to be safe, successful and a suitable match for somebody on the transplant waiting list. 

Find out more about what it might mean for you and your family by taking a look at our law change facts. Make sure you have all the answers before you make a decision.

Law Change Facts

Dr Hari Doshi, Heart Transplant Surgeon

In this video, Dr Hari Doshi, a Heart Transplant Surgeon at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital briefly explains why the law around organ and tissue donation is changing in Scotland.

How does the opt out system work?

Under the new opt out system, if all adults aged 16 years and over have not confirmed whether they want to be a donor, they will be considered to be willing to donate their organs and tissue when they die, unless they choose to opt out. 

You can still choose whether or not you want to be an organ and tissue donor by registering your decision and telling your family. Your faith, beliefs and culture will always be respected.

Who is affected?

The opt out system applies to everyone in Scotland, however there are certain groups of people who the law does not apply.

Find out more about these groups.

  • Who the law doesn't apply to

    The law doesn't apply to certain groups of people. 

  • The role of your family

    Your family will always be approached if organ or tissue donation is a possibility. 

  • Medical tests and procedures

    Routine medical tests and procedures need to take place before donation can happen. 

What do I need to do?

Everyone feels different about organ and tissue donation, but most people are aware of its life-saving and life-enhancing importance. Here’s where you can find out more about your choices, before making your decision.

  • 1

    Make your decision

    You can choose to donate or not to donate, but did you know it doesn't have to be all or nothing?

  • 2

    Register your decision

    Learn more about the NHS Organ Donor register Register and how to register record your decision.

  • 3

    Share your decision

    Whatever you decide, it's important to make sure your donation decision is known, so be sure to tell your family and friends.

Organ and tissue donation laws in other parts of the UK

Organ donation laws vary across different countries in the United Kingdom (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and the Crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. 


Scottish organ donation law changed on 26 March 2021.

In Scotland, if you die in circumstances where you can donate, you will be considered to be a donor when you die, unless you have chosen to opt out or are in in a group that the new law doesn’t apply to.

Your loved ones will still be consulted about your views to ensure that donation does not proceed if you would not have wanted it to. Organ and tissue donation remains a personal decision and you have a choice.

Read more.


English organ donation law changed on 20 May 2020.  All adults in England are now considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups. 

Read more.


The legislation for Wales is ‘deemed consent’. This means that if you haven’t registered an organ and tissue donation decision, you will be considered to have no objection to becoming a donor.

Read more.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland

The current legislation for Northern Ireland is to opt in to organ and tissue donation. The Minister of Health has announced plans to move towards a system of deemed consent and a consultation is currently underway.

Read more.

Crown dependencies

The Jersey organ donation law changed on 1 July 2019.  All adults on Jersey are now considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups. 
Guernsey currently operate under an opt-in system however they do intend to move to an opt-out system. Their deemed consent law has been passed and are awaiting an official implementation date.
Isle of Man currently operate under an opt-in system.  They are making progress on their deemed consent law which has already passed through a number of legislative phases.
Read more information about the current legislation around organ donation in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man and any proposed changes.