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MPs back automatic organ donations

Families will be 'told' about organ use rather than 'consulted' unless deceased has registered their refusal beforehand

FRENCH MPs have rewritten the country's rules on organ donation - meaning any deceased adult will be considered to have given their approval for organs to be used, unless they refuse beforehand on a national register.

Health minister Marisol Touraine put forward the amendment to a wide-ranging health law currently being debated in parliament. The wording means close relatives will be "told" of plans to use a deceased adult's organs, rather than "consulted" at present.

There are 19,000 people on the organ transplant waiting list in France. Opinion polls suggest about 80% of people are happy for their organs to be used after they die. However, in 40% of cases, families refuse for this to happen when asked.

Socialist MP Michèle Delaunay said families suffering from shock often said no to organ donation and ended up regretting their decision later.

The exact terms of the new measure have not been defined and any changes would not come into force until at least January 2017. Anyone opposed to their organs being used can sign up to the Registre National des Refus - a central database.

About 270 doctors and nurses have signed a petition against the new rules on ethical grounds, also fearing it will harm relations between medical staff and the relatives of those who die.

One leading surgeon in Montpellier university hospital told reporters it would "madden" relatives and be "unmanageable" and "impossible to apply". He said it would be easier to register people's wishes - for or against organ donation - as a piece of data stored on their Carte Vitale.

Professor Claude Ecoffey, the president of the French society of anaesthetists and intensive care staff, SFAR, agreed that the change would lead to "conflicts".

Some organ donation campaign groups, such as Greffe de Vie, have welcomed the move, estimating that between 500 and 1,000 lives could be saved each year.

The National Assembly has also adopted part of the new health law allowing experiments into "shooting rooms" where drug addicts can inject in a safe, sterilised environment.

The approval from MPs - 50 votes for, 24 against - came after four hours of fierce debate between left and right.

The opposition UMP party says the measure would do nothing to help people recover from their drug addiction. It believes the rooms could give a more acceptable image to drug use, and be a first step towards decriminalisation.

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