Understanding the New Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) Bill

There are two main changes the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) sought to clarify:
  • The first was the role of the health care agent or power of attorney and placement within the next of kin hierarchy.
  • The second area of clarification relates to Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders.

Under the provisions of the new law, any documented statement of a gift (or refusal of a gift) cannot be overruled by anyone other than the person who legally made the original statement. Verbal statements of this nature can be made as long as the statement is witnessed by at least two witnesses. (One witness needs to be a disinterested witness, defined as someone who is not related to the patient, would not be considered as having provided special care or concern for the patient—except for a paid healthcare provider- and would not be a person to whom which the anatomical gift could pass, for example a potential recipient of the gift (organ, tissue, or eye.)

Currently, having signed up with intent to donate at the DMV is not considered a legally binding consent. Many POA and Living Wills only allow for making health care decisions and do not include anatomical gifts. In that case, the POA would not be able to make donation decisions.

Current next of kin hierarchy:

  1. Healthcare agent or Power of Attorney (POA)—if given the responsibility of making an anatomical gift
  2. Spouse
  3. Adult children
  4. Parents
  5. Adult Siblings
  6. Adult grandchildren
  7. Grandparents
  8. Adults who exhibited special care or concern, except those who provided compensated health care for that individual
  9. Legal guardian
  10. Whomever the responsibility would lie with to dispose of the body

If there is a disagreement between people who fall on the same level of the hierarchy then the gift can be made by a majority of the people in that group (no longer needs to be unanimous.)

Contained within the law is a “good faith” clause. This protects the hospital and health care workers from prosecution as long as they were operating in good faith in applying the law.

Lastly, the UAGA clears up conflicts that may exist between anatomical gifts, healthcare Power of Attorney (POA) orders and Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders.

 

If there is no documentation of a refusal to make an anatomical gift (this would be found in their POA or DNR orders) then measures to ensure the medical suitability of the potential donor may not be discontinued, withdrawn or withheld until the appropriate recovery organization has been notified and has had a reasonable amount of time to determine the suitability of donation. This allows the agency to have time to evaluation the situation to appropriately determine potential suitability of organ, tissue and eye donation.