This website is intended for healthcare professionals


Nurses will play key role in new opt-out organ donation law

Opt-out organ donation will be introduced across England by 2020 if Max’s Law attains parliamentary approval

Opt-out organ donation will be introduced across England by 2020 if Max’s Law attains parliamentary approval.

The law will presume that all adults are organ donors unless they have been recorded as non-organ donors – and the government says this will save up to 700 lives each year.

The new system will also have specialist nurses on hand to discuss the donation process with donor families after the death of their relative.

‘Nursing staff overwhelmingly support moving to a soft opt-out system for organ donation. But the patient journey does not end when they receive a transplant. They need lifetime support and care to ensure transplanted organs are not rejected and life with their new organ is lived well,’ said Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN.

‘Specialist nurses play a key role in delivering care before and after transplant. To enable the predicted increase in organs for donation the Government must provide increased financial investment into this vital workforce.’

A consultation by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) saw 71% of members in favour of the soft opt-out system – which includes safeguards such as: investment in infrastructure (such as specialist nurses), limiting opt-out to adults only, trained professionals must discuss donation with families, sustained awareness campaigns, and a review of opt-out donations in impact evaluation.

Those excluded under the new system include children under 18, those who may lack the mental capacity to understand the changes and those who have not lived in England for at least 12 months before their death.

‘There is an urgent shortage of donors and last year 411 people died on the transplant waiting list. We support all activity that increases the availability of donated organs for life saving transplants and we welcome the Government’s commitment to organ donation. NHS Blood and Transplant will work with the Government to ensure that any changes are implemented successfully,’ said Anthony Clarkson, interim director of organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant.

‘Whatever system is in place, it will always be important that people talk to their family about organ donation. This can make things easier for families at a very difficult time.’