Automatic organ donation is now a thing in France unless you choose to opt yourself out

As of January 1 of this year, France has instated an opt-out law of organ donation that uses a ‘presumed consent’ system.

This means every French adult is automatically an organ donor unless you join an official ‘refusal register‘. This register has already accumulated 150,000 French members out of a population of 66 million.


The new model has proven successful in Spain and Wales, with studies showing that more than 90% of people donate in opt-out nations.

The European Union has stressed the importance of organ donation for transplants by releasing some staggering figures. In 2014, 86,000 people were waiting for organ donations in EU states, and 16 people were dying every day while waiting for a transplant.

A survey in France showed that while up to 80% of the population agree to donating their own organs, about 40% of families refuse when given the choice.

The automatic opt-out law attempts to tackle the biggest obstacle for organ donation: the family of the deceased. It now states that family members will be ‘told’ of their loved one’s donation, rather than ‘consulted’.

As you can imagine, the controversial law sparked opposition, with 270 heath practitioners signing a petition against the change. The reasons for the push back ranged from ethical stances to concerns that is was simply unmanageable.

But French donation organisations have expressed deep relief, saying it could save 500-1000 lives per year.

In November, the French Agence de la Biomédecine released Déjà-vu2, a film aimed to encourage the young people of France to agree to organ donation.

In Australia, there are around 1,600 people on the transplant waiting list and more than 60% of families give consent for organ and tissue donation to proceed. Despite an opt-in system, we’re doing pretty well but there is still a long way to go.