NI to adopt presumed consent for organ donation

Stormont has voted in favour of an ‘opt-out’ organ donation system.

Currently, people in Northern Ireland who wish to donate their organs or tissue must sign the NHS Organ Donor Register.

But from next year, Northern Ireland will join the rest of the UK in automatically registering most residents as donors, unless they have confirmed otherwise.

Default registration

The new ‘opt-out’ law will come into effect in the Province in spring 2023.

From that time, the NHS will presume that anyone who has not registered their decision not to donate has agreed to have their organs removed at death.

Those under 18, people deemed to lack mental capacity to understand the law, temporary residents and visitors will be excluded from the scheme.

At the moment, around 140 people in Northern Ireland are known to be waiting for an organ transplant.

No clear evidence

Last year, academics reviewing opt-out proposals in Northern Ireland, observed: “Despite a lack of clear supporting evidence, it is often suggested that deemed consent will contribute significantly to addressing the organ shortage.”

Writing in The Lancet, Jordan Parsons and Bonnie Venter said: “Countries with both deemed consent systems and high transplantation rates, such as Spain, are often looked to in evidencing the promise of deemed consent.

“However, it is important to recognise that the success of the Spanish system is more a result of investment in education and organisation”.

They added: “Indeed, it was not until these organisational changes came 10 years after the introduction of deemed consent that deceased donation activity in Spain began to markedly increase.”

Also see:


‘Presumed consent’ organ donation in Scotland from next year

Opt-out organ donation ‘seriously flawed’ warns bioethicist

Columnist: Encourage organ donation, but don’t use law to force people

Presumed organ donation ‘unlikely’ to increase rates

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