How to be an organ donor in France

Family members are interviewed after a death over donation plans

Organ donations are usually done within the first two days of a person’s death

Unlike in many other countries, the go-ahead for organ donation in France is considered the default option and people need to ‘opt-out’ if they do not wish this.

It means that unless you have expressly stated you do not want your organs donated – and sign up to the national refusal register – you are eligible to have your organs donated. 

However, for children consent is still required.

Organ donation is anonymous, and the entire process is free.

There were more than 10,000 on the organ donor waiting list in France in 2023, however only 5,494 organ donations were carried out. 

What happens after a donor’s death?

As with all deaths, the passing of the deceased must be confirmed by a healthcare professional

Read more: What are the immediate steps to take after a death in France?

It cannot be signed by any doctor who is part of the organ transplant team (although it is unlikely they would be in charge of both patients). 

If the person’s organs are a match for someone awaiting a donor, then an interview will be scheduled between the medical transplant team and close family members of the deceased. 

The team explains what will happen (in terms of which organs will be donated and why), and family members will be allowed to see the body one more time before the organs are removed, if they wish.

At this point, the family members also have the option to refuse on the person’s behalf the removal of all – or certain – organs from their body. 

Although organ donation is anonymous in France, family members can ask if the transplant was successful for the recipient.

Read more: Organ donation in France: Why it is good to talk about it

What happens to my body if I am selected? 

If you are chosen to be an organ donor, your body will be artificially kept alive, whilst tests are run and your family members are interviewed. 

Due to the time-sensitive nature of organ donation, tests are run as quickly as possible, and most donations happen within the first two days of a death.

Read more: World first as heart stored for 12 hours before transplant in France

Once the donated organs have been removed, the body is returned to the family, so funeral arrangements can be made. 

Alternatively, you can donate your body to science. 

Read more: Can I donate my body to science once I die in France?