Organ transplants are medical procedures where a person’s internal organs are transferred to another person’s body. The person receiving the organ is called the recipient or the donee, while the party giving the organ is called the donor. Organ transplants are performed in cases where the donee’s organs have failed and present health risks to them.

Organ transplants are common for organs such as kidneys, pancreas, heart, or lung. Transplants are also common for other body parts and systems such as bones, bone marrow, blood, corneas, and other parts of the eye and skin. Organ donations and transplants are often classified according to whether the donor is still alive or not (deceased donor vs. living donor).

What Are Some Common Legal Issues Involving Organ Transplants?

Organ transplant procedures are sometimes connected with legal issues. The procedures are often complex and may require long wait times to find a “match” for the recipient. Once a match is found, the procedures for removing an organ and transplanting it can be very complex. Some legal issues may include:

  • Failing to perform surgery properly (i.e., performing the wrong procedure, performing on the wrong person, failing to remove a surgical implement, etc.)
  • Malpractice with regards to a pharmacy error
  • Breach of contract between donors and donees
  • Forced donation or organ theft

Thus, medical malpractice claims can occur with some organ transplants. Many medical and surgical procedures have various side effects. Hospital or doctor liability can also occur for failure to warn a patient of the risks associated with a specific procedure.

What Are Some Remedies for Organ Transplant Legal Issues?

Organ transplant malpractice lawsuits often result in a monetary damages award for the victim. The damages awarded help to cover costs like:

  • The cost of the original procedure
  • Additional medical treatment and medication costs
  • Legal fees
  • In some cases, punitive damages

Some states may impose limits on medical malpractice awards. The limits vary according to the state and the type of malpractice claim involved.

What Proof is Needed For a Transplant Malpractice Action?

Professional negligence is negligence committed by a doctor, nurse, healthcare provider, hospital, or other institution. Professional negligence involves the failure to do something that a reasonably careful physician, nurse, medical provider, hospital, or other institution would do. Professional negligence may also involve doing something that a reasonably careful physician, nurse, medical provider, hospital, or other institution would not do under similar circumstances.

Jury instructions in professional negligence cases ask the jury to consider whether or not the defendant physician, nurse, medical provider, hospital, or other institution was negligent. The jury is instructed to consider all opinion testimony from expert witnesses. Evidence of professional standards, evidence of rules, regulations, policies, and procedures presented in the case are also considered. The law itself does not determine how a reasonably careful physician, nurse, medical provider, hospital, or other institution would act.

This standard of care applies to any organ transplant case, which may include the transplanting of a heart, lung, kidneys, liver, pancreas, cornea, or other vital organs. As with all medical negligence cases, the elements of negligence must be proved in a transplant malpractice case. This means that duty, breach of duty, proximate cause, and damages must be proved. The plaintiff’s burden is to convince a jury or judge that these elements are more true than not true.

What Are the Federal Organ Donation Laws?

The legal framework governing organ donation in the United States supports the system of transplantation.

The primary law governing organ donation in the U.S. is the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA). The UAGA is legislation that is passed into law state by state. The Uniform Commissioners drafted the UAGA. The Uniform Commissioners are a body of law and policy experts appointed by the governors of each state. The Commissioners identify areas of law that would benefit from nationwide uniformity but which cannot be federally regulated because they fall under powers reserved to the states. Organ donation is an area of the law reserved for the states.

The experience and organ donation policy is typically consistent throughout the country regardless of the state you live or die in. Public health matters, contracts, and estate gifting are reserved to the states to regulate. Organ donation and transplantation involve components of each of those areas. Recognizing the need for a single approach to organ donation policies, the UAGA has been enacted in every state in the United States, providing national consistency across state law.

The UAGA establishes gift law as the legal principle in the United States organ donation system. Because medical providers are trained in health laws and informed consent, they are often surprised to learn that organ donation laws do not follow the same principle. Informed consent is the concept of permission granted by a patient of treatment after understanding the risks and benefits involved, including any available alternatives.

However, organ donation upon death presents neither risks nor benefits to the donor because the donation happens after death. Individuals who want to donate their organs upon death usually provide permission for donation years or decades before their death, making it unknowable what organs or tissues will be donated at the time of death. Informed consent is ill-suited for the regulation of organ donation. For these reasons, gift law is the legal framework provided under the UAGA.

Gifts, in legal terms, are legally binding voluntary transfers or something from a donor to a donee without payment. The lack of monetary exchange is important in organ donation contexts because federal law prohibits the sale of organs. Ordinary contract law would not be an appropriate legal framework for organ donation because a contract cannot be legally binding without consideration.

Consideration is payment for the promise to transfer something from one person to another. If payment was made for organ donation or transplantation, it would be federally illegal. Gift law provides the legal certainty that organ donations by a deceased person are a decision distinguished from any other typical health care decision.

The UAGA works in the United States because the U.S. culture is deeply entrenched in individual rights, starting with the Constitution and working its way through laws, regulations, and cultural norms. Individual autonomy is a priority in the United States. The legal framework provided under the UAGA furthers a rights-based culture by requiring an affirmative, voluntary decision to make an organ donation as a gift. Organ donations upon death are an opt-in policy. In the past ten years, the United States experienced a 27% growth in deceased organ donors and transplants. The U.S. significantly exceeds the donation rate in pain, which is widely regarded as the world leader.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with an Organ Transplant Claim?

Organ transplants are major operations and often involve a great deal of paperwork and legal issues. You may need to hire a qualified personal injury lawyer if you encounter any legal issues in connection with an organ transplant procedure.

Your attorney can provide you with legal advice and representation for your claim. Also, if you need to appear in court, your lawyer will guide you during the process. Use LegalMatch’s services to find a personal injury lawyer in your area today for free.