Organ donation: a guide for expats

Do you want to donate your organs? Do you know how to make sure that does or doesn’t happen in your new country? Here’s a short and simple guide explaining what you need to do.

Opt-in or opt-out?

First, find out if your country has an opt-in or opt-out system. Opt-in systems mean you actively have to give permission for your organs to be donated. The majority of countries have an opt-in system, including the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, New-Zealand, the UAE and the UK (except for Wales).

Opt-out systems work on ‘presumed’ or ‘deemed’ consent: unless you have informed the authorities that you do not want to donate your organs, they assume you want to. Since 2010, 24 EU countries have used this system, including Spain, Belgium, France and Austria. Unlike the rest of the UK, Wales also has an opt-out system.

A few countries use both systems; opt-out for some organs and opt-in for others. Singapore, for example, has an opt-out system (HOTA) for kidney, heart, liver and cornea donation, and an opt-in system (MTERA) for other organs and tissues.

Want to donate? Register!

No matter the system, if you want to donate your organs, register as a donor and get an organ donor card. If you have this card, there will be no doubt that you want to donate. In most countries, you can register and get a card as soon as you are a legal resident.

Don’t want to donate?

If your country has an opt-in system, there is no problem if you don’t want to donate; simply don’t register as a donor.

If your country has an opt-out system, you will be added to the organ donor register as soon as you are legally residing in the country. If you do not want to donate, make sure you ‘opt-out’ after becoming a legal resident.

Tell your family

In nearly every country – no matter if they have an opt-out or opt-in system – final consent is with your family. Family members have been known to prevent donations even when the individual has been registered as a donor. This is known as ‘family overrule’: your family can overrule your given consent. To ensure your wishes are followed, tell your family whether you do or do not want to donate your organs.

For precise information on organ donation in your country, including how to opt-in or opt-out, visit the country’s national health website.

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