Uniform Anatomical Gift Act

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Originally enacted in 1968, the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act is a federal framework that sets how anatomical gifts can be made. Every state has enacted the provisions of the act in some form. The act allows a decedent or surviving relatives to donate certain parts of the decedent's organs for certain purposes, such as giving to those in need or for medical research. The act was revised in 1987 and again in 2006. The revisions made in 2006 aimed to address shortages and encourage donation. The 2006 revised act: expanded the list of persons who can consent to organ donation on behalf of an individual; gave every individual the opportunity to donate their organs at or near death; and stated that individuals who refuse to donate must explicitly state so.

Still, the act balances a variety of policy interests as well.  As federal courts have stated, the act addresses the need for donations while respecting the religious and moral sensibilities of those who do not wish to donate. Litigation surrounding the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act primarily involves consent and the good faith clause of the act. In particular, the act states that any hospital that acts in good faith in accordance with the anatomical gift laws is not liable for damages in any civil or criminal liability. In this context, "good faith" has been defined as "an honest belief, the absence of malice, or the absence of a design to defraud or seek an unconscionable advantage over another." For example, New York has held that where a tissue bank received donations based on illegitimate consent forms, the bank was protected from liability under the good faith clause by showing that it reasonably relied on the forms.  

[Last updated in December of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]