Anatomical Gifts Legal Aspects of Anatomical Gifts
An anatomical gift is a
donation of organs
and tissues. Advancements in medicine have now made it possible
to transplant twenty-five different human organs and tissues,
including corneas, heart, liver, kidney, lungs, pancreas, bone
and skin. Donations may also be used for research related to
diseases, disabilities and injuries.
As the success rate of transplants continues
to increase, more anatomical gifts are needed. The demand for
organs and tissues far exceeds the number of those available.
The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act was enacted in August, 1968 for
the purpose of establishing comprehensive and uniform laws
regarding organ and tissue donations. If an individual dies in a
state other than that where the gift was executed, uncertainty
about the applicable law is eliminated and the gift will be
recognized. It was also designed to ensure compliance with the
donor's wishes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have
adopted the act, with some states making minor variations.
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Who May Execute an Anatomical Gift?
Any individual of sound mind who is at least
18 years of age may execute an anatomical gift, either for
personal donation or on behalf of another. With consent of a
parent or legal guardian, a minor may also make a gift. The
execution of a gift may occur before or after death.
nor medical history should affect or discourage the execution of
an anatomical gift. Some donations have no age restrictions and
a body of any age is valuable for research.
The execution of an anatomical gift is
preferably made by the donor, with that intent conveyed to and
discussed with family members. While no other individual is
legally authorized to revoke a donor's execution of an
anatomical gift, in reality most hospitals, physicians and organ
procurement personnel rely on family or next of kin
confirmation. This is done in order to avoid potential legal
actions, to avoid creating additional stress for the family at
the time of a relative's death, and to avoid any adverse public
perceptions which may compromise organ donation programs by
discouraging other potential donors. Therefore, to avoid the
possibility of having a gift revoked, make certain the
appropriate individuals have been informed about your commitment
to your personal anatomical donation.
By statute, consent to organ and tissue
donation is sought from these individuals in the following order
2. Adult Child
4. Adult Sibling
5. Legal Guardian
If any individual in a prior category refuses
consent, no organs or tissues will be taken.
Limitations on Anatomical Gifts
The execution of an anatomical gift may
specify that all or part of the body may be used. This
authorization also allows any examination necessary to assure
the medical acceptability of the gift. If the gift is of the
entire body, where appropriate, the body may be embalmed and
used for funeral services prior to the donee accepting the gift.
If the gift is for some parts of the entire body, these will be
removed as soon as possible after death and the remainder of the
body returned to the family or next of kin for disposition.
How to Execute an Anatomical Gift
An anatomical gift may be executed by so
indicating on the back of your driver's license, or executing
the following Uniform Donor Card:
Uniform Donor Card of
(Print or type name of donor)
In the hope that I may help others, I hereby
make this anatomical gift, if medically acceptable, to take
effect upon my death. The words and marks below indicated my
(a) __ Any needed organs or tissues.
(b) __ Only the following organs or tissue
(Specify the organ(s) or tissue(s))
for the purposes of transplantation, therapy, medical research
(c)__ My body for anatomical study, if needed.
Limitations or special wishes, if any:
Signed by the donor and the following two witnesses in the
presence of each other:
Signature of Donor _________________________
Date of Birth of Donor ______________________
Date Signed ________________________________
City and State ______________________________
(Preferably Next of Kin)
This is a legal document under the Uniform
Anatomical Gift Act or similar laws.
If the donor is unable to personally sign,
another person may be directed to sign by the donor in the
presence of the two witnesses.
It is not recommended that an anatomical gift
be made in a will, as it usually requires a period of time
before the will is read and probated.
At any time an anatomical gift may be
revoked. This may occur through any of the following methods:
1. A signed statement of the donor;
2. An oral statement made in the presence of two people;
3. A statement made during a terminal illness or injury
addressed to an attending physician;
4. By destruction, mutilation or cancellation of the document;
5. A revised signed card or document.
A donor may specify any of the following to
become donees of anatomical gifts for the purposes stated:
1. Any hospital, surgeon or physician, for
medical or dental education, research, advancement of medical
or dental science, therapy or transplantation;
2. Any accredited medical or dental school, college or
university or the State Anatomical Board for education,
research, advancement of medical or dental science or therapy;
3. Any bank or storage facility, for medical or dental
education, research, advancement of medical or dental science,
therapy or transplantation; or
4. Any specified individual for therapy or transplantation
Although donees may be specified, frequently
they may not be compatible with the donor and alternate donees
should be considered. Such factors as blood type, body size and
urgency of need must be evaluated. Organ and tissue banks
function collectively to determine compatible donors and donees
and prioritized needs for anatomical gifts. Therefore, final
decisions regarding appropriateness of transplantation are made
by those organizations.
It is also acceptable to make an anatomical
gift without specifying a donee. In this instance, the gift may
be accepted by the attending physician as donee upon or
Pronouncement of Death
Merely executing an anatomical gift will not
in any way alter the high quality care that an individual will
receive prior to death. Medical personnel must follow very
strict guidelines before death can be pronounced and organs and
tissues are removed from a donor. The physician pronouncing or
certifying death may not in any way participate in the
procedures for removing or transplanting anatomical gifts or be
a relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity of the
recipient donee of the anatomical gifts.
Responsibility of Hospitals Regarding
In June 1986, Missouri enacted a law entitled
"Required Request," giving every individual the right to be
offered the opportunity of organ and tissue donations. This law
also requires hospitals to designate an individual within the
institution to request anatomical gifts when there is a patient
who is a suitable candidate. However, no request is required if
the hospital designee has actual notice of contrary indications
by the donor or family member. The hospital has the
responsibility for notifying the organ or tissue procurement
organization and to provide the necessary assistance to procure
any anatomical gifts.
The execution of an anatomical gift is a gift
of life. It can be the ultimate fulfillment of one's own life.
Spending a few minutes now executing an anatomical gift and
discussing it with family members can ensure compliance with an
If you have additional questions regarding
the legal aspects of organ and tissue donation, consult your
For Legal Advice See Your Lawyer
American Red Cross Tissue Services supplies
one-quarter of the nationís tissue for
transplantation through its network of 15 tissue
The Eye Bank
Association of America (EBAA) is a
not-for-profit organization of eye banks dedicated
to the restoration of sight through the promotion
and advancement of eye banking.
The Lions Eye Bank
for Long Island web site is dedicated to all
those individuals who have given the gift of life
and the gift of sight.
transAction Council was established in 1996
to actively meet the unique needs and concerns of
individuals with all types of organ transplants.
Membership to the council is free and open to all
transplant recipients and their families, as well as
health care professionals, legislators and other
The gifts of love and life that donors have given
truly do make a difference! The success of
transplant athletics has created new opportunities
to demonstrate the success of transplantation. The
Transplant Games allow recipients to test the
challenges of human potential through the arena of
athletic competition. The enthusiasm of the athletes
has led to the emergence of local, state and
regional activities, all of which publicize the fact
that transplants do work.
A major voluntary health organization, the NKF seeks
to prevent kidney and urinary tract diseases,
improve the health and well-being of individuals and
families affected by these diseases, and increase
the availability of all organs for transplantation.
Resources and programs are available for patients as
well as donor families and recipients of all organs
National Kidney Foundation Affiliates
An alphabetical guide to all the affiliate offices
of the National Kidney Foundation throughout the
Heart Association is a not-for-profit,
voluntary health organization funded by private
contributions. Its mission is to reduce disability
and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
These include heart attack, stroke (brain attack)
and related disorders.
The Association of
Organ Procurement Organization - (AOPO) is a
private, nonprofit organization recognized as a
national representative of organ procurement
Association of Tissue Banks - (AATB) is a
scientific, not-for-profit, peer group organization
founded in 1976. Its mission is to facilitate the
provision of high quality transplantable human
tissue in quantities sufficient to meet national
on Donation is a not-for-profit alliance of
local coalitions and national organizations who have
joined forces to promote organ and tissue donation.
The Coalition is dedicated to educating the public
about organ and tissue donation, correcting
misconceptions about donation and creating a greater
willingness to donate.
Division of Transplantation provides Federal
oversight and funding support for the nation's organ
procurement, allocation, and transplantation system;
coordinates national organ and tissue donation
activities and funds research to learn more about
what works to increase donation; and administers the
national bone marrow registry program.
is all about transplantation and donation. Visit
transWeb for webcasts including pictures, stories,
and audio clips of the 2000 US Transplant Games and
Donor Recognition Ceremony.
The American Society
of Transplantation is an organization of
transplant professionals dedicated to research,
education, advocacy and patient care in
transplantation science and medicine. Through the
work of the AST, the transfer of information from
the basic science laboratories to the transplant
clinics will ultimately lead to new scientific
advances and improvements in patient care.
The North American
Transplant Coordinator's Organization (NATCO)
is the professional society of more than 1,750
transplant coordinators, and as such, is the largest
group of transplant professionals in North America.
American Liver Foundation is the only
national, voluntary non-profit health agency
dedicated to preventing, treating and curing
hepatitis and all liver diseases through research,
education and support groups.
The Online Consumer Guide
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