Organ Donation

What is Organ Donation?

Organ donation is giving an organ to someone else who needs a transplant as their own organ is no longer working. This donation will greatly enhance or save the life of the person who receives the transplanted organ and hundreds of people’s lives are saved each year by organ transplants. Most donated organs come from people who have died.

The Law

The English Law states “all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they had recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups”.

This means that it you do nothing when you die your organs may automatically be considered for removal from your body and donated to someone else.

Your Rights

You still have a choice whether or not you want to become an organ donor and can register or amend your decision at any time.

Within an opt out system the decision about whether or not you choose to donate your organs is still yours to make and there is no deadline.

We advise you:

  • understand how the system works and potential benefits of organ donation
  • talk to your loved ones about the matter
  • seek scholarly advice

If you do not want to make an organ donation decision yourself you can nominate up to two representatives to make the final decision on your behalf. If you die in circumstances where donation is possible, your appointed representative(s) will be asked if your organs should be donated.

Opting Out of Organ Donation

If you record a decision to opt out, you are expressing that you do not want to donate your organs and tissue after death. If you don’t want to donate, it’s really quick and simple to record your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Your decision is added to the NHS Organ Donation Register and will be respected in the event of your death

If after considering the options you do not wish to donate your organs after your death you may opt out by completing the Register Your Decision form or calling 0300 123 23 23.

Why You May Consider Organ Donation

Donating an organ could potentially save or offer someone else a better quality of life. Certain organs are essential for living and if permanently damaged can lead to illness or death.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic patients often have to wait significantly longer for a successful match due to a shortage of suitably matched donors. For many patients in need of a transplant the best match will come from a donor from the same ethnic background.

If more people with these ethnic backgrounds donated their organs after death, then transplant waiting times would reduce as it could increase the chances of someone from the same ethnic background finding a suitable match.

Is organ donation permissible in Islam?

There are many opinions and fatwas (religious opinion) regarding the permissibility of organ donation in Islam.

In 1995 the Muslim Law (Shariah) Council UK issued a fatwa on organ donation. The council resolved that:

  • the council supports organ transplantation as a means of alleviating pain or saving life on the basis of the rules of the Shariah
  • Muslims may carry donor cards
  • the next of kin of a dead person, in the absence of a card or an expressed wish to donate their organs, may give permission to obtain organs from the body to save other people’s lives.

The fatwa is based on the Islamic principle of necessities overrule prohibition. Normally, violating the human body, whether living or dead, is forbidden in Islam – but this can be overruled when saving another person’s life.

However there are also a significant number of Muslim scholars who believe that organ donation is not permissible and hold the view that this does not fall under the criteria of the Islamic principle of necessities overrule prohibition due to other overriding Islamic principles.

Both viewpoints take their evidence from the Qur’an and the haadith and therefore individual Muslims should make a decision according to their understanding and seek advice from a scholar of their choosing.

The process

The organ donation process involves a specialist team who ensure that donors are treated with the greatest care and respect during the removal of organs and tissue for donation. Only when end of life care planning is started is the possibility of organ donation discussed with your family

The donation operation is performed as soon as possible after death. The retrieval of organs takes place in a normal operating theatre under sterile conditions and is carried out by specialist surgeons. Afterwards the surgical incision is carefully closed and covered by a dressing in the normal way.

Only those organs and tissue specified by the donor and agreed with the family will be removed. After donation, the body is always returned to the family of the deceased in the same way as any death in a hospital where donation has not taken place.

You will need to speak to the clinicians to see if there are considerations around any possible delays to your funeral plans. Note clinicians will never proceed with organ donation if your family or loved ones object, your faith and beliefs will always be respected.

Transplant laws in the UK expressly prohibit the sale of human organs or tissue