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Organ Donation – Updated Legislation

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What is the new Legislation?

As of May 20th 2020, Organ donation in England has moved to an ‘opt out’ system (also known as ‘Max and Keira’s Law’).

All adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die, regardless of whether they have chosen to sign up or not, unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.

Your family or an appointed representative will always be approached after your death to deem whether or not you still wish to donate. Your faith, beliefs and culture will also play a large part into any decision made and will continue to be respected.

The important aspect of this, is that there is still a ‘choice’ to be made. Regardless of being automatically on the opt-in register, it is important to note that your decisions cannot be taken lightly, and if you decide not to be a donor there are ways to keep your loved ones and medical professionals informed of these decisions.

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What do I have to do?

There are multiple ways that you could register your decision to be an organ donor or not. The government have put forward a 12-month transition period from the 20th of May 2020. This is to allow people time to adjust to the change and to also prepare to register their decisions. This period gives you time to actively think about what you want to happen to your organs when you are no longer here and how to ensure that those closest to you are aware of your decision. There are many questions you need to think about:

  1. Do your family understand what you would want to happen to your organs?
  2. If you don’t have family nearby is there someone who you could confide in to explain your wishes?
  3. If you don’t want to expressly tell your family, how else could you make your decision known?
  4. If you have a Will, will this new legislation affect it?
  5. Where should you keep this information? And who should you inform about your wishes?


What you need to do:

  1. Record your organ donation decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register
  2. Tell your family and friends what you have decided
  3. Express your decision in your Will – this can be altered if you change your mind at a later date.
  4. Keep a copy of your decision in a place that is easily located by your loved ones
  5. Don’t panic. There are lots of ways to express your decisions, you don’t have to feel limited or pressured into making decisions.


Which organs can be donated?

  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Pancreas
  • Small bowel

Tissue such as:

  • Tissue
  • Cornea
  • Bone

You do have a choice as to what you wish to donate. This can be done through the NHS registry, identified in your Will, or spoken about in confidence with your friends or family. Although we would always recommend putting your decision in writing to prevent any possible conflicts.


How important a role will the family play in these decisions?

Under the new system, families will still be supported by the specialist nurses in personal discussions about organ donation at the bedside with the emphasis on honouring their loved one’s wishes. The family will maintain a key role, not least because families provide important information to nurses and clinicians about their loved one’s medical and behavioural history which allows clinicians to assess whether donation could be an option.


I want to donate but my family is against it. What should I do?

If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland you can appoint up to two people to make the final decision about organ donation for you. If you die in circumstances where donation is possible, your appointed representative(s) will be asked if your organs should be donated.

To add appointed representatives to the NHS Organ Donor Register, you will need to ask them to sign the ‘nominate a representative’ form in the presence of a witness.

Once NHS Blood and Transplant receives this form, your information and the details of your appointed representatives will be added to the NHS Organ Donor Register and this information will be available to your specialist nurses if you are identified as a potential donor. A copy of these forms will also be attached to your Will to expressly state who you are wanting to nominate.

The form can be found here: https://nhsbtdbe.blob.core.windows.net/umbraco-assets-corp/11332/appointing-a-representative.pdf


Will my funeral plans be affected?

There will always be questions asked about funeral arrangements, or medical professionals will ask to see a copy of the Will should there be special arrangements in place such as open-caskets, quick burials etc.

The surgery carried out to remove a donor’s organs is carried out by highly skilled professionals who take the same care and attention and offer the same respect as they would in any operation to save a patient’s life. The surgical incisions are carefully dressed after the surgery and any end of life care wishes in relation to the washing and dressing of the body are respected.

Many donors go on to have an open casket funeral (if required). So, should you decide to remain opted-in, any arrangements you have in place for your funeral will still be honoured and respected. Your arrangements will not be altered due to your choice. However, it is important that you make your funeral arrangements clear prior to your death, so that they can be honoured should the time come.

For any extra information: https://nhsbtdbe.blob.core.windows.net/umbraco-assets-corp/17433/english-organ-donation-law-is-changing-easy-read.pdf


Why would I need a Solicitor?

By making your Will it will give you and your family peace of mind that your affairs are in order. If you want to be in control of the decisions that are being made about YOU or you wish to authorise a third party to make those decisions on your behalf, then please seek advice.

Even if you think you have nothing to leave you can still prevent any more additional distress for your family at such an emotional time. By making a Will you are making it clear who will deal with all aspects of your estate when you are no longer here. Especially if there are restrictions, or reasons as to why you would have chosen to opt-out for organ donation.

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Why choose Oakwood Solicitors Ltd?

Oakwood Solicitors can assist you through this process and provide you with the necessary advice. Our team have gained an excellent reputation amongst local organisations and their client-base for delivering a personal and compassionate service. As a firm we pride ourselves on having a high standard of customer service and making all our current and potential clients feel at ease when making any decisions regarding their future wishes.

You will have a dedicated advisor who will work through the Wills process with you from start to finish, assisting you in the event of any queries or issues you may have. Your advisor will also continue to provide regular updates until your final Will signing and then will send you reminders in future years should you need to modify your Will.

Once your Will has been signed, we can store your Original Will free of charge  in our deed store department and provide you with a copy to keep with your personal documents. We  will ensure the process is as stress-free and effortless as possible.


Further reading

For information about Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) for property and financial and/or health and welfare purposes, read our breakdown here.



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