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Organ donation

RCN Survey on consent for organ and tissue donation after death

Help us review our RCN position

The survey on consent for organ and tissue donation after death is now closed.

Over 7,500 RCN members completed the survey and their responses will help inform the first review of the RCN’s position on consent since 2009. 

For more information about the survey please read our member briefing on consent for organ and tissue donation after death. 

For any questions about this survey, please contact:

What is organ and tissue donation?

“Organ donation transplants healthy organs and tissues from one person into another.” Organ Donation Wales.

 Many people who are waiting for a transplant are seriously ill and are reliant on donations to survive.

 Most donations take place after either brain-stem or circulatory death. Some donations, such as donating a kidney, can also be made by living donors. Donations after death require a particular form of consent to be in place. This is the focus of the RCN survey. 

Organs that can be donated after death are: kidneys, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas and the small bowel. Tissues that can be donated after death include: corneas, skin, bone, tendons, cartilage and heart valves.  Because organs must be transplanted so soon after death, in reality only people who die in hospital can be considered as organ donors. Unlike organs, tissues can be donated up to 48 hours after death.

What are the different systems of consent?

In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, there is currently an opt-in system in place for organ and tissue donation after death. This means that those who have expressed a wish to donate organ and tissues after death will be considered for donation. If someone has not expressed a wish to donate during their lifetime, their family would normally be approached to make a decision on their behalf. 

This is different to an opt-out system where, often with certain exceptions, everyone will be deemed to have given consent to donate their organs and tissue after death unless they have chosen to opt-out during their lifetime. Wales has adopted an opt-out system and there are now proposals being considered in both England and Scotland to move to an opt-out system.