Organ donation – what changes will ‘Max’s Law’ make?

It was recently confirmed that the law around organ donation in England is changing, with the new rules taking effect from spring 2020.

Currently, organ donation follows the ‘opt in’ rule, which means that anyone who wants to donate their organs when they die must sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register.

However, as of April next year, this will be replaced by the necessity to ‘opt out’ of organ donation, under the process of ‘deemed consent’. This means that every patient aged over 18 who dies is considered a potential organ donor if they are eligible and has not actively opted out via the Donor Register.

This change has come about after a public consultation in 2018, which received a record-breaking number of responses and led to the rethink of current legislation to help answer the vital need for greater levels of organ donation. It will be commonly known as Max’s Law, named in recognition of the high-profile campaign led by the family of Max Johnson, aged 10, whose life was saved through the donation of organs from nine-year-old Keira Ball, who tragically lost her life in a car crash.

If you are agreeable to your organs being donated after your death, your ‘deemed consent’ means you do not have to take any further action. However, if you object, it is important that you register this via the NHS Organ Donor Register. You also have the opportunity to nominate up to two people to help make this decision after you die, such as a family member or trusted friend.

Opting out is something you should also consider including in your will – in the way that currently people often add a clause specifying they wish to be an organ donor, your will can now be used to state your wishes to the contrary.

Routinely your family are consulted with regard to organ donation after death – and likewise with the two nominated people for those who have previously opted out – and it may prove useful to them to see your express wishes on this matter included in your will, so they can be sure they are making the decisions on your behalf that you would want them to.

For advice on how to update your will on this or any other matter, please contact our specialist team at any time.

Michael Cattermole is a solicitor in the specialist wills and probate team at law firm Sintons. To speak to him, contact Michael on 0191 226 3791 or

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