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Success! Humanists UK celebrates new life-saving organ donation law after more than a decade of campaigning

A new opt-out organ donation law that will automatically consider adults to be organ donors when they die comes into effect in England today. Humanists UK, which lobbied for the change for over a decade, has welcomed the new law, saying it is ‘likely to save thousands of lives’ by dramatically increasing the number of organs available to those who need transplants.

The change will mean that a dead person will be presumed to have consented to organ donation unless they explicitly opted out prior to their death. Next of kin will also be able to refuse a donation, but are being encouraged to talk to their loved ones about their wishes prior to death so these can be upheld. The new law is expected to save upwards of 700 lives per year.

In Wales, where opt-out organ donation was introduced in 2015, the new system is thought to have boosted consent rates from 58% to 75%. A similar system will come into effect in Scotland in March 2021.

Humanists UK has long campaigned for an opt-out system and has responded to multiple Government consultations and worked with various stakeholders, including the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), to bring about the change. December 2018 saw the launch of the first NHS donor cards for humanists, which were supported by Humanists UK and can be downloaded via the NHS organ donation website.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘We are delighted to see the law change in England after over a decade of campaigning. Statistics show that 80% of English adults would donate or consider donating their organs, but less than 40% actually signed up to the organ donation register. The new, evidence-led opt-out law provides a more humane and rational approach for the 21st century which will save countless lives. For humanists, who don’t believe in an afterlife, there can be no better legacy.’


For further comment or information, please contact Ruth Wareham at or phone 020 7324 3000.

Read everything you need to know about the new organ donation law

Download your own NHS humanist donor card

Read more about our work on organ donation

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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