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New organ donation guidance must be inclusive of the non-religious

Humanists UK has called for the Human Tissue Authority’s new Code of Practice to be fully inclusive of the non-religious to ensure their wishes are protected, in its response to the implementation of opt-out organ donation from 2020.

The Human Tissue Authority is updating its Code of Practice for medical professions on how the change to an opt-out system of organ donation will work in practice. An opt-out donation law was passed earlier this year and presumes that a deceased person has consented to organ donation unless they had previously opted out. Humanists UK welcomed the move, which is expected to save more than 700 lives per year.

In its submission, Humanists UK called for the language used in the Code to be revised so that it is equally inclusive of the non-religious. It also called for the Code to provide greater clarity on the role that family members play in the decision-making process, particularly in cases where the religion or belief of the deceased is different to that of family members.

Humanists UK is concerned that the current Code does not provide practitioners with practical solutions to how to hold conversations with family members who object to organ donation for religious reasons, but when those beliefs are not shared by the deceased. This is a particular problem for apostates who have left a religious group and subsequently may not wish for the views of religious family members to be considered in the decision to donate.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We campaigned for many years in favour of opt-out organ donation in England, and we are glad that this will come into effect from April 2020. We are keen to ensure that the accompanying Code of Practice from the Human Tissue Authority is robust and fully inclusive of the non-religious population, and ensures that the wishes of non-religious donors are protected as far as possible.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read more about the opt-out organ donation law passed earlier this year.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns work on organ donation.

Read our response to the Human Tissue Authority Consultation.

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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