The side effects of deemed consent: changing defaults in organ donation

David M. Shaw*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Web of Science)


In this Current Controversy article, I describe and analyse the imminent move to a system of deemed consent for deceased organ donation in England and similar planned changes in Scotland, in light of evidence from Wales, where the system changed in 2015. Although the media has tended to focus on the potential benefits and ethical issues relating to the main change from an opt-in default to an opt-out one, other defaults will also change, while some will remain the same. Interaction of these other defaults with the principal one raise several ethical issues that may complicate efforts to use deemed consent to increase donation rates. Most significantly, changing the main default will have the effect of changing the default for patients' families, who play a vital role in the consent process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-439
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • vital organ donation
  • informed consent
  • donation
  • procurement of organs
  • tissues
  • transplantation

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