Human body material

In Belgium, the law provides the rules for the procurement of organs and other human body material after the death of a person. A priori, everyone in Belgium is presumed to be a potential donor. Everyone, however, has the right to oppose it, but also to confirm his or her willingness to be a donor. This can be done by informing his or her relatives (family, friends) of his or her choice, but also by being registered in a database which, in the event of death, will be consulted prior to any procurement. In addition, everyone has the possibility to change his or her choice at any time and to register a new declaration.

New terms as of 1 July 2020
The law was modified in 2019 concerning the terms of registration of wills in the central database. In the past, the only way to register one's wishes for organ donation or donation of other human body material was to go to one's communal administration. Only your commune had the necessary access to register your declaration in the central database.

Things have changed since 1 July 2020: you can still ask your communal administration to register your declaration, but you can also ask your general practitioner to do this for you or you can do it directly yourself online via the "" portal.

You can express yourself regarding four types
You can express your will in relation to these four situations:

  • organ donation for transplantation: this involves the procurement of one or more organs such as liver, kidneys, lungs, heart or pancreas for the purpose of transplanting them to another person who is waiting for a transplant
  • donation of other types of human body material such as skin, cartilage, tendons, a heart valve or arteries, for example: this type of material will then be used either:
    • to be transplanted to another person whose state of health requires it: this can be a skin transplant for a person with severe burns, a cornea transplant for a person with visual impairment, a heart valve transplant for a person with heart problems, etc.
    • to manufacture new treatments or medicinal products to treat certain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease or certain cancers in particular; this is what is called "advanced therapies".
    • to help advance research in the field of medicine: this will involve procuring a tumour, ganglion or lobe of a diseased liver, for instance, that will then be analysed by researchers to better identify the causes of a disease and look for new treatments.

Whether you are for or against it, register your preferences
In relation to these four situations, the law provides that, by default, any person is considered a potential donor after his or her death. If you have not expressed any other choice, you will therefore be registered in the central database as a "default donor". Nevertheless, you can either oppose certain types of procurement or, on the contrary, indicate that you are in favour of them.

If you withdraw a previously made declaration without expressing a new choice, you will again be identified as a "default donor".

Who can register his or her choices?
Any person who is domiciled in Belgium and deemed capable of expressing his or her will. This applies to any person listed on the Population Register or any person listed on the Aliens' Register for at least 6 months.

For a minor or an adult who is not capable of discernment, his or her legal representative may, via his or her commune of residence or through his or her general practitioner, register an opposition to the procurement of organs or human body material. In the case of minors, this objection shall remain valid, provided that their legal representative does not withdraw it until they reach the age of majority. From then on, they will have to express their choices themselves, if they wish to do so.

Only you can make these choices for yourselves
In order to ensure that nobody can speak on your behalf or modify your declaration without your consent, you must use your electronic identity card to connect to the central database via the portal.

Last updated on 10/07/2020