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Northern Ireland Humanists calls for opt-out organ donation

Northern Ireland Humanists, in conjunction with Richard Norman, Professor Emeritus of Moral Philosophy at the University of Kent, has responded to the Department of Health’s consultation calling for the implementation of opt-out organ donation in Northern Ireland. This system, which is already in place in England, Wales, and Jersey, and is due to come into force in Scotland, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man later this year, increases the number of organs available for transplant, saving lives.

Northern Ireland currently operates an opt-in system, in which prospective organ donors must sign up to an organ donor register. However, many people who are happy to donate their organs after death either do not sign up for the register or do not discuss the matter with relatives or friends, and so medical professionals are not aware that they wished to consent. Currently, in Northern Ireland, 913,224 people have signed the organ donor register, accounting for 48% of the population. However, the consent rate for donation to proceed after death is 64%, short of the UK-wide target of 80% by 2020. As of writing, around 115 people in Northern Ireland are on the transplant waiting list and every year around 10-15 people die waiting on an organ transplant.

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented: ‘We are delighted that Northern Ireland seems set to make the change to opt-out organ donation. There is substantial evidence from other UK jurisdictions that this can dramatically increase rates of donation, reducing the suffering of those waiting for a transplant. The proposed system will also place stronger protections on the rights of the individual to determine what happens to their body and organs after death.’


For further comment or information, please contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at or phone 02890 029946.

Read our consultation response.

Read more about our work on organ donation.

Northern Ireland Humanists is part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 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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