Organ and tissue donation opt out system

New law comes into effect next March.

Legislation to introduce an opt out system of organ and tissue donation for deceased donors will come into effect on 26 March 2021.

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.

Work to implement the legislation was temporarily halted earlier in the year to allow the NHS to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A public information campaign started in summer 2019 advising what the law change means and what choices people will have. It will continue over the coming months to make people aware of the new date.

Under the new law, if an adult does not opt out of donation they will be deemed to have authorised donation for the purposes of transplantation. This is subject to the safeguards in the new law 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:

“Scotland has made huge strides in increasing transplant rates over the past decade, thanks to the generosity of those who choose to become donors and their families.

“The move to an opt out system is part of a package of measures to continue to improve transplantation rates – and the lives of those for whom the wait continues.

“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 save and improve the lives of those on the waiting list.

“Only around 1% of people die in a way that makes organ donation possible, so every opportunity for donation is very precious.

“I would encourage people to continue to make a decision about donation, record their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and discuss it with their family and friends so they know what you would want to happen.”


People can find out more about the opt out system of organ and tissue donation, and their choices at

The Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Act 2019 was passed in July 2019 and will come into effect on 26 March 2021.

The 2019 Act amends the existing Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006 by introducing a new, additional authorisation called ‘deemed authorisation’. This means that donation may proceed where adults over the age of 16 were not known to have any objection to donation.

It will include protections for:

  • adults without capacity to understand deemed authorisation and take the necessary action,
  • adults resident in Scotland for less than 12 months before their death
  • 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

Since 2008 in Scotland there has been:

  • a 101% increase in the number of people who donated organs after their death (54 to 109 in 2019/20)
  • a 45% increase in the number of lifesaving transplant operations from deceased donors (211 to 307 in 2019/20)
  • a 18% decrease in the number of people on the active transplant waiting list (689 to 563 in 2019/20)

Organ donation is only possible where the donor has died in hospital, normally in an intensive care unit.


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