French people who die will become organ donors unless they specifically opt out before their death, under a new law that took effect on the first day of 2017. Previously, the families of French citizens who had not specified whether they wanted to be organ donors were contacted after their death. Nearly one-third of the time, the families declined to donate their relatives' organs. Now, France will "presume consent" for anyone who has not joined the official "refusal register," the Guardian reports. Those who don't want their organs donated can also leave a signed document with their next-of-kin, or, if they had expressed their wishes orally, family members can make a written declaration of non-consent after the relative's death.
A lack of donated organs and growing numbers of people on organ waiting lists are problems in the European Union. A survey in France previously found that up to 80% of the population was in favor of donating their own organs upon their death, and studies have found that other European countries that use the opt-out method see 90% or higher rates of organ donation, the Outline reports. So far, about 150,000 of France's 66 million people have opted out. (Read more organ donation stories.)