Presumed consent? NHSBT Press Release

NHSBT has issued a press release today giving the background information to their approach to reducing the number of families who say no to the organ donation of a deceased loved one who has signed the organ donor register. It is as important to talk about your own organ donation wished with your family as it is to signing the organ donor register itself.


Families saying no to donation results in missed transplant opportunities for UK patients


More than 500 families in the UK have said no to organ donation taking place since 1 April 2010 despite knowing or being informed their relative was on the NHS Organ Donor Register and wanted to donate. These family refusals have resulted in an estimated 1,200 people missing out on a potentially life-saving transplant.

NHS Blood and Transplant has released the figures to draw attention to the fact that family refusals mean that people either wait longer for a transplant or die on the transplant list.  There are currently 6,578* people waiting for an organ transplant across the UK. When a family says no to donating, someone waiting for a transplant may miss out on their only opportunity for a transplant. Around 1,000 people die in need of a transplant across the UK each year.

Although registering a decision to donate on the NHS Organ Donor Register is a legally valid decision to donate your organs, in practice if your family strongly feel that they cannot support donation, despite staff answering their questions and concerns, donation doesn’t go ahead.  That is why it’s vital to tell your family that you want to be a donor and to register your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Some families refuse to support a relative’s decision to be an organ donor in spite of the fact that the majority of people find the idea of someone overriding a decision to donate unacceptable.  73% of respondents to a survey carried out by NHS Blood and Transplant said they thought your next of kin shouldn’t be able to overrule your decision to donate after you have died, whereas only 11% thought it was acceptable to do so.

The organisation, which is responsible for the NHS Organ Donor Register and for matching and allocating donor organs, is now exploring whether there are further steps it could take when approaching families to ensure more potential donors’ decisions are honoured by their relatives. This includes making clear to families that consent or authorisation has already been provided by the individual themselves.

The relationship hospital staff build up with families at this time is very important, particularly given that the family members of potential donors provide a lot of important information about their relative’s medical, travel and behavioural history before donation takes place. 

NHS Blood and Transplant is looking at ways to reduce the number of families who feel unable to support their relative’s decision to be a donor.  Ideas being explored include...


>> read full press release on NHSBT website



Join the Organ Donor Register and share your decision with your family

It’s simple to join the Organ Donor Register by:

Anyone can register on the ODR. Age isn’t a barrier to being an organ or tissue donor and neither are most medical conditions. People in their 70s and 80s have become donors and saved many lives.

One donor can save or transform up to 9 lives and many more can be helped through the donation of tissues.