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17th September 2020

To donate or not to donate?

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With Britain in the throes of a pandemic, a significant change in the law relating to organ donation in England earlier this year may have gone largely unnoticed. In May 2020 a new ‘opt out’ system was introduced, under which you are assumed to agree to donate your organs if no decision has been recorded and you are not in one of the excluded groups (those under 18; those who lack mental capacity; visitors to England; people who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death and people not living here voluntarily).

This new system has been introduced to help save and improve more lives. Although organ donation has increased over recent years, there is still a significant shortage of donors. Last year, 408 patients died in the UK on the transplant waiting list.

Crucially, despite the change in the law, you can still choose whether or not to be an organ donor. You should register your decision to donate, or not to donate, on the NHS Organ Donor Register and you should also talk to your family about your decision. If you decide not to donate, your decision will be respected.

Even with an opt out system, families are always consulted before organ donation takes place and faiths and beliefs will be taken into consideration. If you have discussed your decision with your family, they will have the comfort of knowing they are following your wishes, rather than the burden of trying to make a decision at a time of great distress.

While your wishes on organ donation can be recorded in your Will, this often doesn’t help as the contents of the Will may not be known when a decision needs to be made. They key is to talk to your family and record your decision on the Register. You can change your mind at any time. If you do, the same applies: tell your family and record your new decision on the Register.

Organ donation will not affect a funeral, and the funeral can take place in the usual way. It is a good idea to think about recording funeral wishes in a Will. A Will can include a request for burial or cremation and perhaps further funeral wishes e.g. whether there is to be a church service, where ashes are to be interred, whether there is a reserved burial plot. Sometimes a side letter, which can be held with the Will, is used to record funeral wishes. Again, the key is to record your wishes and also to talk to your family about what you want. It may not be an easy conversation, but in the event of your death it will be a great comfort to them to know they are carrying out your wishes.

It has never been more important to keep your affairs up to date. Perhaps take this opportunity to record your decision on organ donation and also to review your Will to ensure it reflects your current wishes.

If you would like our help to review your Will, or put a Will in place, please contact Chloe Harbutt on 01223 461155 or click here to email Chloe.