Scottish organ donation law is changing to an opt out system from today. 

From now on, Scots will be considered as donors when they die unless they have chosen to opt out.

If an adult does not opt out of donation they will be considered donors from that date, subject to safeguards which seek to ensure donation will not go ahead where it would be against the person’s wishes.

The Scottish Government said there are many factors involved which determine whether donation can go ahead and only around 1% of people die in circumstances where that is possible.

John Casey and Dr Iain Macleod, co-chairs of the Scottish Donation and Transplant Group, said: “The new action plan will build on the progress made in recent years to improve transplantation and organ donation in Scotland.

“It contains key elements which will improve the lives and experiences of patients and, as such, we very much welcome its introduction.”


Here's what you need to know about the new Scottish organ donation system

Why is the law changing in Scotland?

The law is changing to help save and improve more lives. 

Every year up to 50 people will die in Scotland in need of a transplant, and more than 500 people are waiting for a transplant at any time. 

According to Organ Donation Scotland, although 77% of people in Scotland support donation, many don’t record this decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

That means only around 1% of people die in a way that makes organ donation possible, which usually involves dying in a hospital. 

Who will the law change affect?

The law change will apply to most adults who are resident in Scotland, however it will not apply to children under the age of 16, adults who lack the capacity to understand the new law and to take the necessary actions, or adults who have lived in Scotland for less than 12 months before their death.

If a person in one of the excluded groups set out by the law dies in a way that means they could donate, and they haven’t already recorded a donation decision, then their closest family member will be asked whether they wish to authorise donation.

How do I register my decision?

The clearest way to record your decision is on the NHS Organ Donor Register and you can do this either online or by phone.

Visit NHS Organ Donor Register to register online, or call 0300 303 2094. 


Can I change my mind?


If you decide you want to opt out or change your donation preferences - such as which organs and tissue you do or do not want to donate - you can complete a form to amend your details or call 0300 303 2094.

Will my family be consulted?

Your family will always be approached if organ or tissue donation is a possibility. If you have already made a decision about donation and shared this with your family, they would be expected to support your decision, whatever that is. 

If you have not recorded a donation decision either way and you are not in an excluded group, your family will be approached and asked if they have any information about your donation decision and about your latest views to ensure donation doesn’t go ahead if it’s against your wishes.

If no information is available, it will be considered that you agree to donate your organs and your family would be expected to support this.

Is my religion, faith or belief system taken into consideration before donation goes ahead?

Your family will always be approached to ensure donation doesn’t go ahead where it is against your wishes and only proceeds when it is in line with your beliefs.

What medical procedures and tests are part of the donation process?

Certain routine medical procedures and tests are carried out as part of the donation process - either shortly before or after death.

These are to check that transplantation is likely to be safe, successful and a suitable match for somebody on the transplant waiting list.  

These could include blood tests, urine tests and x-rays.

Without these tests and procedures taking place, donation won’t be able to proceed.

What has the Scottish Government said?

Public health minister Mairi Gougeon said: “This new action plan sets out a clear ambition of increasing organ and tissue donation and transplantation to enable more of those people who desperately need a transplant to access one.

“Over the last 10 years, a great deal of progress has been made. However there is still a lot more to do. Too many people are still tragically dying waiting for a transplant and too many others are still waiting too long for their transplant.

“The opt-out law change is one of many initiatives under way to help deliver improvements and the measures set out in this plan will contribute further.

“The Scottish Government is confident the package of measures included in the plan – both new recommendations and initiatives already started – will enable us to continue to save and improve the lives of those on the waiting list by increasing the numbers of transplants over the next five years.”