Office of the Chief Rabbi

New Organ Donation System in England

As of 20th May 2020, English Law on organ donation changed from what is often referred to as an ‘Opt-in’ system to an “Opt-out’ system or ‘Deemed Consent’. In other words, whereas previously the law only permitted organ donation in cases where it could be established that this was the express wish of the donor or where the family consented, now it will be permitted unless it can be established that it would be contrary to the express wish of the donor.

This change has important implications for those in the Jewish community who would wish any decision about donating organs to be made in accordance with appropriate Halachic advice. This page should provide all the information that you need about the current situation but if you have any questions, not answered here, please don’t hesitate to email info@chiefrabbi.org.

At the outset it is important to be absolutely clear that no person’s organs can be taken against their wishes at any time and consultation with a person’s family remains an absolutely essential part of the organ donation process. This means that if, for example, a person had shared their wishes with their next-of-kin but not formally registered them on the Organ Donor Register (ODR), those wishes would still be respected.

This is one of the reasons why it is a good idea to discuss the issue of organ donation with family and friends so that they are aware of your preferences.

Over the last two years, the Office of the Chief Rabbi has worked closely with NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) to deliver an essential accommodation within the opt-out system which will allow a person to declare on the Organ Donor Register that their wishes for donation are entirely subject to guidance from their chosen religious authority. The effect of this accommodation will be to allow observant Jews to engage positively with the new system, safe in the knowledge that their faith will be respected. There is no deadline for registering one’s preferences or opting out – this can be done at any time.

The Government and NHSBT have made absolutely clear that until the impact of the virus on the NHS significantly and measurably subsides, Deemed Consent will not be implemented. In the interim, the NHS will continue to approach families about donation and where there isn’t a recorded or known decision, they will support families to make a decision on behalf of their loved one.

Unfortunately, because of the pervasive impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic, it is not yet possible to make this declaration on the Register – this feature will be introduced shortly. In sufficient time ahead of Deemed Consent’s actual implementation, and as the agreed changes to the Organ Donation Register are introduced to accommodate the implementation, we will be setting out in further detail how these new measures will operate.