The law on organ donation is changing on 20.05.2020 – PASS IT ON

The Organ Donation Act 2019 comes into force on 20 May 2020, changing the law on organ donation.  

From 20 May 2020, everybody will be automatically enrolled as a potential donor unless they ‘opt out’. This means that all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or fall into one of the excluded groups below:  

  • Those under the age of 18 
  • People who lack the mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and take necessary action 
  • Visitors to England, and those not living here voluntarily 
  • People who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death 

The Act is also known as ‘Max and Keira’s law’ in honour of a boy who received a heart transplant and the girl who donated it. 

There are more than 6,000 people currently waiting for an organ in the UK. Three people die each day while on the waiting list. The new law will help to reduce the number of people waiting for a life-saving transplant.  

The numbers of donors from black, Asian or ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds are particularly low resulting in BAME transplant patients waiting significantly longer for a successful match than their white counterparts. The NHS reports that one in five people who died on the Transplant Waiting List last year were from a BAME background.  

It is important to look at the reasons why currently there are so few BAME donors. Some of the reasons often cited by members of BAME communities for not wanting to be a donor, is religion. 

Make an informed decision  

At a recent event we held with our friends from the Association of Muslim Lawyers, we heard from scholars and academics from the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu faiths. They explained that organ donation is not prohibited anywhere in the religious scriptures or teachings. In the Quran, it states that if you save one human, it is as though you have saved the whole of humanity. In the Sikh and Hindu faiths, organ donation should be encouraged as it follows the religious teachings of “seva” (selfless service).

We at SAL believe that there can be no better seva than giving the gift of life.  

If anybody is unsure or wants more information about what their religion says about organ donation, they should consult their local religious leader or scholar. 

You can also read more on ‘Organ Donation and your faith/beliefs‘ here.

The new ‘opt in’ or ‘deemed consent’ is not an all or nothing proposition. A donor can specify which organs they wish to donate and only those organs and tissue specified by the donor and agreed with the family will be removed for transplantation.

It is still your decision to make

Whether you want to ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’. The choice is yours. REGISTER your decision here.

Further information and reading

For more information about organ donation you should visit

Ranjit Sond is President of the Society of Asian Lawyers and a lawyer at the Government Legal Department.

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