Autumn 2020 for organ donation opt-out system

Human Tissue Bill passed into law.


Legislation to introduce an opt-out system of organ and tissue donation for deceased donors will come into force in Autumn 2020.

The new law will add to the package of measures already in place which have led to significant increases in donation and transplantation over the last decade.

It will follow a public awareness campaign of at least 12 months which will provide more information about what the changes mean and what choices people will have.

Under the new law, if an adult does not opt-in or opt-out of donation they may be deemed to have authorised donation for transplantation. This is subject to the safeguards in the Act which seek to ensure that donation will not go ahead where it would be against the person’s wishes.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said:

“Organ and tissue donation can be a life-changing gift. Evidence shows that opt-out systems can make a difference as part of a wider package of measures and this Act provides further opportunities to both save and improve lives.

“We will continue to work with key stakeholders and the NHS as we prepare for the introduction of opt-out in Autumn 2020 to ensure this legislation is implemented effectively.

“In Scotland there are an average of more than 500 people waiting for an organ transplant at any one time so it’s important that we do all we can to improve the lives of those on the waiting list.

“I would encourage people to continue to make a decision about donation, record this on the NHS Organ Donor Register and discuss it with their family.”


The Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill was introduced to Parliament on 8 June 2018 and passed by Parliament in June 2019. Having completed all the parliamentary stages, the bill has now received Royal Assent and will come into force in Autumn 2020. This is when the Queen formally agrees to make the bill into an Act of Parliament (law).

The Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill amends the existing Scottish legislation that supports donation by introducing a new, additional form of authorisation called ‘deemed authorisation’. This means that donation may proceed where a person was not known to have any objection to donation.

Under the system there will be protections for adults without capacity to understand deemed authorisation, adults resident in Scotland for less than 12 months and children under 16 who will not be subject to deemed authorisation and will only be able to donate if they, or someone on their behalf, explicitly authorises it.

Less than 1% of people die in circumstances that enable organ donation to proceed, as a potential donor usually has to be in an intensive care unit and there may be medical reasons that mean organs are unsuitable for transplantation.

The high profile awareness-raising campaign will run for at least 12 months before the introduction of the new system, and on a regular basis after implementation.

Since 2008 in Scotland there has been:

  • an 81% increase in the number of people who donated organs after their death (54 to 98 in 2018/19)
  • a 58% increase in the number of lifesaving transplant operations from deceased donors (211 to 333 in 2018/19)
  • a 16% decrease in the number of people on the active transplant waiting list (689 to 581 in 2018/19)


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