French law introduces Automatic Organ Donation


As of January 1, 2017, in accordance with the French Health Law of January 26, 2016 all deceased individuals over age 18 are automatically be presumed to be organ donators.

The previous stipulation for doctors to ask family members of the deceased individual’s intention on whether or not to donate organs was eliminated by the Public Health Code. The reform, which presumes consent for organs to be removed, has a goal of reducing the family’s opposition rate from 32.5% to 25% in 3 years.

Nonetheless, the medical staff must take into account any individual’s refusal which can be stated by putting their name on a national refusal register, but also by simple written declaration of non consent or testimony from a family member or loved one.*

Organ donation is a solidarity movement which can save many lives every year. However, the strict regulations for donations must not be superseded by the shortage of organs.

Numerous ethical issues are raised by this new regulation. “It is legitimate to want to increase organ donations. But it should not be at the expense of mistreating or putting guilt pressure on the donor’s family” specifies Dr. Rogier who directs the French Medical Society of Organ and Tissue Donations.

When the subject was being debated, the majority of health professionals expressed their opposition to organ removal without requesting the families’ permission. Besides the argument of refusing to treat the patient as a “tank of spare parts” many especially insisted on the importance of keeping a trustful relationship with the families.

“Deciding to donate an organ is a deliberate willful act, an act of generosity. We cannot make it automatic just to solve a shortage of organs. Wouldn’t it be better to create a national register accepting to donate? asks Emmanuel Hirsch, medical ethics professor at Paris-Sud University.


* 3 ways of refusing:

– speaking to the immediate family and friends, who can inform the doctors ;

– signing the French refusal register. « Currently one has to download a letter from our site. After January 23, one can register on line by scanning one’s ID” specifies Professer Bastien, from the Biomedical Agency.

– writing a text expressing opposition and confiding it to a family member or keeping it in one’s wallet


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