Public Consultation on the introduction of a statutory opt-out system for organ donation for Northern Ireland

Closes 19 Feb 2021

Opened 11 Dec 2020


The Consultation has been published by the Department of Health in order to consult the public about proposals to change the current system of consent for organ donation in Northern Ireland.

Why we are consulting

What is the objective?

The objective of the proposed change is to increase the current rate of consent for organ donation to proceed after a person’s death. Doing so will increase the overall number of donors, and ultimately the number of lifesaving organs available for transplantation.

This would require new legislation to change the current system in Northern Ireland, in which people can choose to ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’ on the NHS Organ Donor Register (ODR), to a new statutory opt-out system. This is sometimes known as ‘deemed consent’.

What is being proposed?

In brief, it is proposed that a statutory opt-out system for organ donation would function as follows:  

  • It will be considered that everyone living in Northern Ireland agrees to donate their organs when they die, unless they have confirmed otherwise, or they are from one of the excluded groups (those under the age of 18; people who lack the mental capacity; visitors to Northern Ireland and temporary residents);
  • Individuals will still have the choice about whether or not they want to become a donor;
  • Families will continue to be consulted (this is known as soft opt-out); and,
  • Decisions based on faith and belief will continue to be respected.

What information is required?

The consultation seeks the public’s views on how to introduce an ‘opt-out’ framework for consent for organ donation in Northern Ireland, including the following:

  • Your current intentions or decisions about donating your organs/tissue after you die;
  • Whether you have shared this decision with your loved ones;
  • Whether a move to a statutory opt-out system would change your decision;
  • The groups of people who should be exempt from the proposed changes;
  • The role that your family and loved ones should play;
  • The scenarios in which deemed consent should not be applied, e.g. donation for research purposes, or for novel and rare types of transplants; and,
  • How we should engage with the public to raise public awareness of the proposed changes in the law, and the focus for future communications.

Give us your views


  • All stakeholders
  • Citizens


  • Consultation