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UK Transplant Laws

There are currently two key laws governing organ donation and transplantation in the UK: The Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006 and The Human Tissue Act 2004 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland). New legislation - the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 - came into effect in Wales on 1 December 2015. This new law means that unless a person living in Wales has expressed a decision not to be an organ donor they will be regarded as having no objection to organ donation. This is called a “deemed consent” system, or as it’s popularly known, a “soft opt out” or “opt out” system.

The Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006 sets out that:

  • Any adult or child aged 12 and over, who is able to make their own decisions, can give permission for their organs or tissue to be donated.
  • If you want to donate organs or tissue, this will be done in preference to any other requests which are made, for example leaving your body to medical science.
  • A person’s own decision is the most important thing. A relative does not have the right to change this decision after the person has died.
  • Children under the age of 12 cannot give permission themselves. For a child under the age of 12, only their parent or guardian can give permission.

At present, in order to become an organ donor, a person must express a wish to be a donor. This system is commonly known as 'opt-in'.

Ways in which people can express their wishes to opt-in include:

  • Joining the NHS Organ Donor Register. The NHS Organ Donor Register is the national, confidential list of people who are willing to become organ donors after their death. This list is maintained by NHS Blood and Transplant.
  • Telling their closest relatives or friends.
  • Carrying a donor card.
  • Writing it in a letter or document such as a will.

If a person’s wishes are unknown, specially-trained healthcare professionals will approach the family for their authorisation to proceed, based on their knowledge of the potential donor.

What if my wishes change?

For both adults and children over 12, withdrawal of authorisation must be in writing.

For more information about the Human Tissue Act (Scotland) 2006 download a copy of our leaflet.

Further information on organ donation in Wales, can be found on the Organ Donation Wales website at