Making your wishes known

12 Mar 2020

When discussing new wills with clients, funeral arrangements are usually part of the conversation.  Any preferences expressed in a will aren’t legally binding, but executors will typically follow the wishes of the deceased.

The sensitive subject of organ donation is regularly raised too.  Many people have strong views, some are very specific about what organs and tissues can be used.  The problem sometimes arises at death when there have been no specific wishes discussed or recorded; families frequently struggle to make a decision about organ donation at a time of heightened emotions.

Whilst a very large proportion of adults are in favour of organ donation, less than 40% of the adult population of the UK have actually registered as donors1.  Less than half2 of grieving families give consent for donation if they don’t know the deceased’s wishes.  Families can, in fact, override a registered donor’s wishes currently.

Organ donation in England is about to be turned on its head when the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act 2019 comes into effect in May 2020.  The new system will mean that all adults in England will be considered potential donors unless they have recorded their express wish not to donate on the NHS Organ Donation Register.

Clearly this is a very significant change and a very sensitive issue; however it’s one that could actually save hundreds of lives, and take a difficult decision out of the hands of a grieving family.

The law has been dubbed ‘Max and Keira’s law’ in honour of a boy who received a heart transplant, and the girl who donated it.

From 20 May, everyone in England over the age of 18 will be considered to be in favour of donating their organs and tissues when they die, unless they have recorded a decision not to donate their organs, have appointed someone to decide for them, or belong to a specified excluded group.

The government is planning a public awareness campaign to make sure that people understand how the system has changed and the choices available to them.

We will, of course, remind clients what the new system entails, and particularly that an opt-out must be correctly registered to be effective.

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