The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (Act) deals with the law relating to gifting human body or organs. The Act was originally promulgated in 1968 and was revised in 1987. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws promulgated Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (2006) to make the anatomical gift system more efficient. However, anatomical gift laws vary from state to state.
An anatomical gift is made through a gift deed signed by the donor. In case the donor is not able to sign the document, another person can sign the document along with two other witnesses. A signature can be made under the direction and presence of the donor and a statement to that effect should be made in the deed.[i] A gift may also be made by will. There are certain forms provided under the Act to be used by a donor or the relatives of the donor or other authorized persons to execute an anatomical gift[ii].
Under the Act, an individual can refuse to make an anatomical gift. This can be possible by a signed document similar to the gift document or a statement printed on the driver’s license or any other writing made portraying his/her intention not to make an anatomical gift[iii]. A donor can orally refuse to make the anatomical gift during a fatal injury or illness.
An anatomical gift provided by a will under the Act is effective even if the will is declared invalid and not probated[iv].
The act also provides for the delivery and filing of the gift document. If the gift is made to a particular person, the document effecting gift should be delivered to the donee immediately after the death of the donor[v]. However the non delivery of the document does not invalidate the gift. Pursuant to a provision in the statute, a gift document is to be filed with the authorities to serve as a record of the gift[vi].
The amendment or revocation of a gift is possible under the act. Under the revision made to the Act in 1987, a donor may revoke or amend a gift made other than by a will in the following ways:
- Generally, by a signed statement;
- If there is a specified donee to whom a document of gift had been delivered then by delivering a signed statement with regard to the amendment or revocation[vii];
- Any form of communication made to a medical professional during a deadly illness or injury; or
- A statement made orally in the presence of two witnesses.
A donor who has not delivered the document of gift made to a specified donee may revoke the gift by destroying or canceling all the documents to that effect or may revoke it in the same way as a gift document delivered to a donee.
However, a gift made by will may be revoked in the same way as specified in the case of a gift made other than by will or in the manner provided under law. An anatomical gift that has not been revoked by the donor before his or her death is not revocable by anyone after the donor’s death[viii].
The examination of body part donations is provided under the act. A donee is free to accept or reject the anatomical gift[ix]. A donee may reject the gift if it comes to his/her notice that there exists opposition to the gift from a class to which the donor belongs.
Generally, a gift under the act takes effect on a donor’s death[x]. A physician or surgeon, who attends to the donor at the time of death, should determine the donor’s death. An individual who has fallen to irreversible termination of the respiratory, circulatory system, and all functions of the brain is considered dead. In a will, a donor can designate a particular doctor to remove the gifted body parts.
[i] Uniform Anatomical Gift Act § 2(b) (1987).
[ii] Uniform Anatomical Gift Act §§ 2, 3 Comments (1987)
[iii] Uniform Anatomical Gift Act § 2(i) (1987)
[iv] Uniform Anatomical Gift Act § 4(a) (1968)
[v] Uniform Anatomical Gift Act § 7(b) (1987)
[vi] Uniform Anatomical Gift Act § 7(b) (1987)
[vii] Uniform Anatomical Gift Act § 2(f) (1987)
[viii] Uniform Anatomical Gift Act § 2(h) (1987).
[ix] Uniform Anatomical Gift Act § 8(a) (1987)
[x] Uniform Anatomical Gift Act § 2(e) (1987)