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Department of Health launches opt-out organ donation consultation

Organ donation reforms are on the cards for England

Today the UK Department of Health has launched its official consultation on introducing an opt-out organ donor register in England. Humanists UK, which has campaigned for precisely such an outcome over many years, has praised the Government for moving ahead on this issue.

The UK’s shortage of available donor organs is so severe that today three people will die preventably in hospitals around the country. Despite 80% of people saying they would happily donate their organs when they die, only 36% register as organ donors before they die. In 2015, Wales became the first part of the UK to address this problem, introducing an evidence-led opt-out organ donor register at the urging of Humanists UK and others. In 2017, the Scottish Government announced it would go down a similar route.

Evidence from Wales shows strong support for the new system. Of the 60 organs transplanted in Wales between December 2015 and June 2016, 30 came from donors with presumed consent and only 6% of people have opted out in Wales. There are also strong calls for change in Northern Ireland, although a bill on this issue was defeated in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

Welcoming the news, Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:

‘After campaigning on this issue for many years, we are delighted to see the Government is moving forward with a Welsh-style opt-out organ donor register in England. By having the confidence to address this issue head-on and move past people’s taboos, we can create a more rational and more humane model which will save countless lives while protecting individuals’ right to choose.’

You can have your say on the Government’s plans by responding to its official consultation online. Humanists UK will be publishing its official response in due course.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on or 0781 55 89 636.

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on organ donation:

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.

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