Is it possible to opt out of organ donation in France?

A 2017 law changed the rules on the default stance of people who die in the country

No questions are asked to those about why they may wish to opt out of organ donation

Reader Question: Thanks to your article, I recently found out that organ donation in France was an opt-out, not opt-in, decision. I would like to opt out of donation, but do I need to do so if I am only a citizen and not a resident? 

As stated, France has an ‘opt-out’ rule when it comes to organ donations, with the default stance being that healthy organs are available for donation. 

In many other countries, people must opt-in to organ donation, usually by carrying a card or by signing up to a register. 

Read more: How to be an organ donor in France

It is easy in France to opt-out of organ donation, by signing up to the registre national des refus de dons d'organes

The register is managed by the national agence de la biomédecine, and allows those who oppose their organs being used for donation – for any reason – to opt-out. 

There is no requirement to explain why you are opting out. 

You can register either by sending a letter, or via the official website.

You can opt-out of three things: 

Donating your organs and tissue

The yse of your body for scientific research (although this is not the same as donating your body to science)

An investigation into the cause of death (this does not apply to judicial autopsies surrounding a criminal case, suspicious death, etc, which cannot be opted out of)

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

Do I need to be a citizen of France to sign the ‘opt out’ register? 

You do not need to be a citizen of France to sign the register.

You must provide information when signing, which includes basic civil information (name, place and date of birth, etc). 

It is also necessary to provide an address, as well as your usual country of residence, although these do not have to be French. 

Finally, you will need to provide a copy of some ID. This can be a driving licence, passport, national identity card.

It is also possible to use a residency permit, allowing residents (temporary or permanent) without any of the other pieces of ID to sign the opt out register. 

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

Are there other ways to opt out? 

This is the main official way to opt out of organ donation in France. 

You can also refuse to donate your organs via writing, with a signed and dated document, given to somebody you trust / a next of kin. 

If you cannot sign and write a document to express refusal, you can have it written by someone else, as long as there are two witnesses to confirm. 

Finally, you can ask your next of kin to write your refusal.

After a death an interview is scheduled with the close family members of a deceased, to see if there is any opposition to donation. 

Family members can choose at this point to refuse an organ donation on behalf of the deceased. 

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