Family overrule of registered refusal to donate organs

David Shaw*, Penney Lewis, Nichon Jansen, Undine Samuel, Tineke Wind, Denie Georgieva, Bernadette Haase, Rutger Ploeg, Dale Gardiner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic


It is well known that families frequently overrule the wishes of dying patients who had previously expressed a wish to donate their organs. Various strategies have been suggested to reduce the frequency of these 'family overrules'. However, the possibility of families overruling a patient's registered decision not to donate has not been discussed in the medical literature, although it is legally possible in some countries. In this article, we provide an ethical analysis of family overrule of a relative's refusal to donate, using the different jurisdictions of the UK, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands to provide some context. Despite some asymmetries between overruling consent and overruling refusal, there are some cases in which donation should proceed despite a recorded refusal to do so.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-182
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the Intensive Care Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

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