Donating Body Parts

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Donating Body Parts

Every state has adopted some form of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, which governs how a person may donate body parts upon death. Some states have adopted the original version of the Act enacted in 1968, while others have adopted the Revised Act of 1987.

The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act

The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1968 provides that any person over the age of 18 and with a sound mind may consent to give all or part of his/her body for the purposes allowed under the Act. In 1987, the Act was revised to provide that the donor may:

Who Can Decide to Donate Body Parts?

If the deceased did not make an irrevocable refusal to make an anatomical gift during his/her life, then a member in the following classes, ranked according to their priority, may make a gift of all or part of the decedent’s body for the authorized uses under the Act:

There are several exceptions where a member in the above classes may not make an anatomical gift:

What Are the Authorized Uses for Body Parts?

The authorized uses include a donation to:

How Is the Gift Made?

An anatomical gift may be made only in a written document signed by the donor. If the donor cannot sign, the gift document must be signed by another individual on the donor’s behalf and by two witnesses, all of whom have signed at the direction and in the presence of the donor and of each other, and state that it has been so signed. A gift may also be made under these provisions via a will.

How Is the Gift Revoked?

Under the 1987 revision of the 1968 Act, an anatomical gift that is not made in a will can be revoked by:

For a gift that is made in a will, its revocation is governed by laws that concern modifying a will.

The method of revoking an anatomical gift that was made under the 1968 Act is similar to revoking a gift made in a will, but it generally requires communication of the revocation to the intended recipient as well if that recipient has been designated by the time of the revocation. If no recipient has been designated, then the gift may be revoked by the destroying, canceling, or mutilating the gift document and all executed copies of it.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you wish to donate your body for medical or research use upon your death, an estate lawyer will be able to help you draft a gift document tailored to your needs. If you are involved with in a dispute over donation of a relative’s body parts, an attorney may be able to help you keep control over the body of your deceased loved one.  

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Last Modified: 05-09-2014 04:08 PM PDT

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