Opt-out organ donation law to save hundreds of lives, says Humanists UK

26 February, 2019

A new opt-out organ donation law that will automatically opt people in England in to donate their organs has passed the UK Parliament today, meaning thousands more lives will be saved under the new system.

Humanists UK, which has lobbied for this change for more than a decade, has welcomed the new law, which will come into force from 2020.

The change will mean that a dead person will be presumed to had consented to organ donation unless they had previously opted out. It is expected to save more than 700 lives each year.

Humanists UK has long called for the introduction of an opt-out system and has responded to government consultations and worked with stakeholders at the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) to influence this change. Humanists UK currently sits on the NHSBT’s advisory group which is creating a public awareness campaign.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented:

‘We are delighted to see this new law, something we have campaigned in favour of for decades. Humanists support organ donation as it can save lives and reduce suffering so it is excellent news that opt-out organ donation will now become law in England.

‘The evidence strongly suggests that this change will increase willingness to donate by both individuals and their families, cuts transplant waiting times, and better reflects the will of the majority of people who wish to donate. Most importantly, it will reduce suffering and save the lives of many people who are in need of a transplant.’

People will still be able to register as a donor with NHSBT (positively opting-in), but those who do not want to donate will need to register as opting-out. Those who neither opt-in nor opt-out will be deemed to have consented to their organ being donated. A similar system has been operating in Wales since 2015, following many years of lobbying by humanists and others in Wales.

The new law comes just a few months after the announcement of the first humanist organ donor cards as part of a push to boost organ donation rates by addressing aspects of faith and belief.

Humanists do not believe that respect for the dead constitutes any reason to object to allowing a deceased person’s organs being used to help others, except when the deceased has expressed a contrary wish.

The new system will apply to those over the age of 18. The Bill only requires Royal Assent to become law, and this is expected to occur very soon.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns work on organ donation: https://humanists.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/organ-donation/

Read more about the humanist organ donor cards: https://humanists.uk/2018/12/14/organ-donor-cards-for-humanists-expected-to-boost-organ-donation-rates/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.