New French law makes every citizen an organ donor

France has passed a law whereby every citizen would be an organ donor, unless they opted out by registering with a national refusal registry. The presumed consent law, which came into effect on 1 January, was aimed at increasing organ and tissue donation.

According to France's national agency for biomedicine (Agence de la biomédecine), individuals who did not wish to be organ or tissue donors could either officially register their refusal or express their wishes to family who would be consulted before a donation was made.

According to the UK's, The Guardian newspaper, 150,000 citizens signed up for the refusal registry in a matter of one day.

In Canada, organ donation registration was managed provincially or territorially. Registration in Saskatchewan was the lowest in the country with less than 1 per cent of the province's eligible residents having registered.

In November, Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall sought to implement the presumed consent model. The plan was opposed by the province's Standing Committee on Human Services. However, health minister Jim Reiter told Global News last month that they were still hoping to pass presumed consent in the province.

According to Ronnie Gavsie, president and CEO of Ontario's organ donation agency, Trillium Gift of Life, the presumed consent seemed like a silver bullet but research showed it was not.

Meanwhile, though France had become the latest country to introduce an opt-out approach to organ donation, despite the calls of proponents, it seemed unlikely that Australia would follow suit.

France had joined a growing list of countries that had changed laws to presume consent.

According to proponents, changing law would help change cultural attitude toward organ donation.

The opt-out policy meant people are presumed to be organ donors unless they officially registered to opt out.

A number of countries, including Spain, Austria, Belgium and Singapore had changed their laws to presume consent. However, according to the Organ and Tissue Authority, (OTA), Australia was not likely to join that list.

A spokeswoman for the agency, which was run within the federal government's health portfolio, said that over half of Australian states had already considered an opt-out approach and decided not to proceed.