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Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Act 2019

Your questions answered

Get answers to some of the key questions around the law change to organ and tissue donation in Scotland.


Your family will be as important when the law changes as it is now. Your family will always be asked about your latest views on donation to ensure donation doesn’t go ahead if it’s against your wishes.

Find out more about your choices
No. It will still be for you to choose if you want to be a donor. Organ and tissue donation remains an act of great generosity. Donation only goes ahead when there is a matched recipient and your family will always be asked about your latest views on donation.

It’s really quick and simple to record your decision via the NHS Organ Donation Register.

Find out more about your choices
For donation to happen, certain tests are routinely carried out to check if donated organs or tissue can be matched to a suitable recipient, that transplantation is likely to be safe for the recipient and to increase the chances of successful transplantation. Without these tests donation may not be able to proceed.

These typically include blood tests, urine tests and x-rays. These are a routine part of the donation process and if you have not opted out of donation, it will be assumed that you are willing for them to be carried out. These tests will always be discussed with your family before being carried out.
The opt out system does not apply to children under the age of 16 years old. In circumstances where a donation decision is required for someone under 16, the parent will be asked if they want to authorise donation.

As is the case now in Scotland, any child aged 12 and above may register an opt in or opt out decision on the NHS Organ Donation Register..

About your decision

If you want to donate, the best way to make sure your decision is supported is to register as a donor and tell your family.

If you die in circumstances where you could donate, a specialist nurse will always check the NHS Organ Donation Register to find out if you have recorded a decision.

Find out more about your choices
If you prefer not to have your decision recorded on the NHS Organ Donation Register you can make a declaration in writing and should tell your family about it, so they can support your decision.

Find out more about your choices
If you want to be a donor but want to specify which organs and/or tissue you would like to donate, you can do this on the NHS Organ Donation Register.

This information would then be available to the specialist nurse who checks the register.

If you opt out, you will be recording that you do not want to donate any of your organs or tissue and are opting out of donation completely.

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You should only opt out if you do not want to be a donor. There are many medical conditions that will mean a particular organ or tissue cannot be used for transplantation purposes but others could be used to help save or improve lives.

The decision about whether your organs and tissue can be safely used to help others is established at the time of your death.

Your faith and beliefs

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.

More about donation

For organs, the deciding factor is the donor's physical condition rather than their age. Organs and tissue from people in their 70s and early 80s are often transplanted successfully.  In every case, specialist healthcare professionals will decide which organs and tissue are suitable, so don’t let your age or health stop you from recording a decision.
Specialist nurses always speak to the family to see if there are considerations around someone’s faith, beliefs or culture in respect to funeral plans.

The surgery to remove a donor’s organs or tissue is carried out by highly skilled professionals who take the same care and attention and offer the same respect as they would in any operation to save a patient’s life. The surgical incisions are carefully dressed after the surgery and any end of life care wishes in relation to the washing and dressing of the body are respected.
If you are ill, your doctor’s absolute priority will be to give you the best possible care and save your life. If you die and you have authorised donation, to make sure everything is impartial, a completely different team of specialists is called in.
Organ donation takes place after someone has died, so it can't hurt. In some cases you can however choose to donate an organ such as a kidney, while you are still alive – but this would be done under general anaesthetic.
For deceased donors, death is confirmed in exactly the same way for people who donate as for those who don’t. Death has to be confirmed by a doctor who is entirely independent of the transplant team. If nothing more can be done to save the patient’s life, any decision about withdrawing life-sustaining treatment is taken in full consultation with the family.
Very few medical conditions automatically disqualify you from donating organs. It may turn out that certain organs aren’t suitable for transplantation, but other organs and tissues are fine.
This isn’t true. The criteria for donating blood are different to organ donation. Everyone can record a decision on the NHS Organ Donation Register.
Organs are always removed with the greatest care and respect. It takes place in a normal operating theatre and is carried out by specialist healthcare professionals who make sure the donor is treated with dignity. Afterwards, the surgical incision is carefully closed and covered, and arrangements for viewing the body after donation are the same as after any death.
This is absolutely not true. The transplant laws in the UK absolutely prohibit the sale of human organs or tissue.

When you have made your decision, it's important to record it on the NHS Organ Donation Register. and inform your family about your choice.

If you didn't find what you need here or are still unsure, you can call our dedicated helpline: 0300 123 2323