Changes to the law

The current organ donation law in Northern Ireland is to opt in to organ and tissue donation.  In spring 2023, the law will change to an opt-out system.  Find out more below.

Organ donation law in Northern Ireland is changing

From spring 2023, the law around organ donation will change to an opt-out system.  The law will be known as 'Dáithí's Law' and will mean, in the event that organ donation is a possibility after you die, it will be considered that you agree to being an organ donor unless you choose to opt out or are in an excluded group.

The best way to opt-out is to register a decision not to donate on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Organ donation is a personal decision and you will still have a choice if you wish to donate or not.

Whatever you decide, please remember to talk to loved ones about your decision so they will know what you would have wanted.

When will the law change?

The opt-out law will come into effect in spring 2023.  This will give everyone time to find out what the law change means, to consider their decision, to record this decision, and to share it with family and friends.

What does this mean for me?

Under the new law, it will be considered that you agree to donate your organs and tissue when you die, unless you have confirmed otherwise, or are from one of the excluded groups.

Excluded groups include:

  • Those under the age of 18
  • People who lack the mental capacity to understand the change in law
  • Visitors to Northern Ireland
  • Temporary residents

You still have the choice about whether or not you want to become a donor. Your family will continue to be consulted, and decisions based on faith and belief will continue to be respected.

The decision will always remain with you, the individual, and your family. Whatever you decide, please let your family know. This will help them to support your decision at a difficult time.

What do I need to do and when?

I do not want to be considered as an organ donor

If you do not want to be considered as an organ donor when you die, you need to opt out on the NHS Organ Donor Register.  You can also let family and friends know that you do not wish to donate.

You can do this at any time up to and after the law change in Spring 2023.

If you have any questions about the law change and wish to speak to a member of the team you can contact the NHSBT dedicated opt-out team on 0300 303 2094.

Please remember to talk to loved ones about your decision so they know how you feel.

I want to be an organ donor

If you decide you would like to donate your organs or tissue after your death, please record this decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register

Even after the law changes next year, you can still register your decision to donate to show your support for the ‘gift of life’.  This is a great way to help reinforce your decision helping your family to support your decision.  You can also make sure they are aware by having a quick chat with family and friends.

I am unsure

If you don’t want to make an organ donation decision yourself, or if you have specific instructions, you can appoint someone to make that decision for you.  If you die in circumstances where donation is possible, the person you nominate as your representative will be asked if your organs should be donated.  Download the pdf form to nominate a representative. 

 

It is important that everyone takes a decision on organ donation - whether that is to donate or not to donate - registers this decision on the Organ Donor Register, and makes this decision known to family and friends.

Why change to an opt-out system?

The aim of the opt-out system is to increase the current rate of consent in the small number of cases in which it is clinically possible for organ donation to proceed after a person’s death.  Doing so will increase the overall number of donors, and ultimately the number of lifesaving organs available for transplantation. This is because, in an opt-in system families, often tell us they say no to donation because they had never discussed it with their loved one.  In the new opt-out system, because you are considered willing to be a donor unless you’ve opted out, it means more families would be willing to support donation even if they haven’t discussed it.

Around 122 people in Northern Ireland are on the transplant waiting list, and sadly each year 10-15 people die waiting for an organ.

It may seem like a lot of people are already on the register, so why do we still have a shortage of organs?

This is because only a small percentage, just 1 in 10, of those who’ve expressed a wish to be a donor will die in the right circumstances for donation to be possible.

Although almost everyone would accept an organ if they needed one, and with 90% of people in Northern Ireland supporting organ donation, just 51% of the population of Northern Ireland are registered organ donors.  The opt-out system will make it easier for those who would like to be considered as an organ donor after death to have this decision honoured.