Frequently Asked Questions.

What is the Organ Donor Register?

The NHS organ donor register is a list of people who want to donate their organs and/or tissue to help save or enhance lives, as well as a list of people who do not want to. Source:

How do I register to be a donor?

You can register your choice by following this link to the NHS organ donation website. It takes just 2 minutes to register. Click here.

Can I change my mind about being a donor once I’ve signed up?

By going onto the NHS organ donation website or calling 0300 123 23 23 you can change your preferences or remove yourself from the organ donation register altogether.

I’m on the organ donor register, can family stop my organs from being donated when I die?

In the UK the family has the final say, which means if you haven’t discussed organ donation with them, they can still say “No” and even overrule your decision. At present, around 43% of families say “No”, so sharing the reasons for your decision will help them honour your choice.

What is Max and Keira’s law?

This is the name for the law that was passed to create a new ‘presumed consent’ or ‘opt out’ system for the NHS organ donor register in England. It was named after nine-year-old Keira Ball who died in a car accident, and whose heart was donated to Max Johnson after his heart failed following a viral infection.

What does ‘opting out’ of the NHS organ donor register mean?

Once the new system comes in, everybody over the age of 18 is considered a possible organ donor unless they have recorded a decision to ‘opt out’ or are in one of the excluded groups. Excluded groups are those who have not lived in England for a period of 12 months, people under the age of 18 and people who lack mental capacity. This system could be in place by 2020.

With the new ‘opt out’ system, can I still choose to donate or not?

Yes –  everyone can still make their own decision, but unlike the previous system where people actively ‘signed up’ to be an organ donor, anyone over 18 (with exclusions) will be added to the organ donor register as a potential donor. Therefore, people have to actively ‘opt out’ by visiting the NHS organ donor website.

How does the ‘opt out’ system affect families having the last say on organ donation when someone dies?

Families will still be involved before donation takes place. This is important to ensure that any recorded decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register was the person’s last known wish around organ donation. If a family is approached and the person who has died has not recorded an organ donation decision, the family will be asked whether they have any information that shows that their loved one did not want to be an organ donor.

How many people are currently in need of organs in the UK?

In 2018 there were about 6,000 patients on the UK transplant list.

Do people waiting for organs always receive them?

No. On average, three people die every day whilst waiting for an organ transplant. Of these, 20% are from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.

How many people donate their organs every year?

Last year 7,500 people in the UK died in situations where it was possible to donate organs. Only 1,500 of them were registered donors.

Do I need to tell my family that I’ve chosen to donate?

It’s vital that you share your choice with family, partners and even close friends, because in the UK when someone dies, these are the people who get final say on whether that person donates or not. At present, 43% say “No” and even if someone has chosen to be a donor they can overturn that decision. Just over a third of people in the UK have told their partner or family that they want to donate. Discussing organ donation with family and friends helps everyone to understand and honour each other’s choice.

Do doctors do any tests to make absolutely sure donors are dead?

Doctors will always try to save a patient’s life first: organ donation is only considered if a patient’s life cannot be saved and only goes ahead after they have died. At the time of death, medical teams do more tests on people who have agreed to organ donation than those who haven’t.

If someone decides to donate all their organs are they offering their body for medical research?

Organ donation is different to medical research. If you have chosen to donate your organs, then your body cannot be used for medical research (except for your corneas, which can still be donated). People who decide to donate their bodies to medical research do so via a completely different process which you can read more about here: