Not All Body Parts Should be Automatically Donated

Proposals for the new presumed consent organ donation system, which comes into force in England next year, say that some body parts should be excluded.


What is changing?

At present, England has an opt-in system for organ donation, but there are currently 5,100 people waiting for an organ transplant, and each day three people die while waiting for an organ.

Government research shows 80% of people say that they would be happy to donate their organs, yet only 37% are registered as donors.

To increase the number of donors, from 2020 everyone over the age of 18 will be considered to consent unless they opt out, appoint someone to decide for them after death, were a resident in the UK for less than 12 months before their death, or lacked the mental capacity to make a decision for a significant period before their death.


Novel or rare transplants

It is proposed that novel or rare transplants will still require explicit permission from the donor or someone representing the donor. This will also cover Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMP), which is when tissues, cells and genes are manipulated for treatment of a disease or injury in a laboratory.

According to the government, the ‘routine’ transplants which will be part of the presumed consent system are:

  • Heart, transplanted either as a whole organ or for heart valves
  • Lung(s)
  • Liver, transplanted either as an organ or for liver cells – unless the liver cells are for use for an ATMP
  • Kidneys
  • Pancreas, transplanted either as a whole organ or pancreatic cells – unless the pancreatic cells are for use for an ATMP
  • Intestinal organs (small bowel, stomach, abdominal wall, colon, spleen)
  • Eye(s)
  • Nervous tissue
  • Arteries/veins/blood vessels
  • Bone
  • Muscle
  • Tendon
  • Skin
  • Rectus fascia (tissue that encases abdominal muscles)

The ‘novel’ or ‘rare’ transplants that are considered experimental and therefore proposed to be excluded from consent are:

  • Brain
  • Spinal cord
  • Face
  • Nose
  • Mouth
  • Trachea (windpipe)
  • Arm
  • Upper arm
  • Forearm
  • Hand
  • Finger
  • Leg
  • Thigh
  • Lower leg
  • Foot
  • Toe
  • Ovary
  • Uterus
  • Penis
  • Testicle
  • Foetus
  • Placenta
  • Umbilical cord
  • Embryo (inside the body)
  • Limbal stem cells (eye cells that allow the cornea to regenerate) – if they are used for an ATMP
  • Liver cells – if they are used for an ATMP
  • Pancreatic cells – if they are used for an ATMP



The government has proposed that certain tissues and organs will still need consent. A consultation, which runs until the 22nd July, is asking for the public’s views on whether or not these choices should be altered, and whether the regulations are clear.

You can respond to the consultation online up until the 22nd July 2019.


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