In April Iowa passed an important legislation; the 2007 Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) bill.
If you are not familiar with the Revised UAGA, it facilitates donations and modernizes the Act to reflect changes in the federal law and regulations governing organ procurement and allocation as well as changes in organ donation practices.
Paul Sodders, Public Affairs Manager for the Iowa Donor Network, walks us through the changes and impacts of the 2007 Revised Uniform Anatiomical Gift Act.
Why is it important to have states pass the Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) now?
While some of the donation processes have federal government oversight, such as listing patients for transplant with the United Network for Organ Sharing, much of the actual donation process (recovering organs) is governed by state law.
Currently, all 50 states are operating under varying degrees of the past two Uniform Anatomical Gift Acts (1968 and 1987). When all states adopt the 2007 Revised UAGA the donation community can be assured of true uniformity in the process which is important because many transplant centers will travel to other states to retrieve organs for patients waiting in their own state.
Will the new law make a personal decision to donate legal?
Yes. The Revised UAGA actually supports donor registry entries as a legal way to consent to donation prior to death. In addition, this act still supports a driver’s license, donor card, will or any other form of written communication as legal consent prior to death. Once a person has legally recorded their consent before death, no other person can change or alter the consent after death ensuring your donation wishes will be carried out.
What if someone did not consent to donation prior to death?
In cases where no legal document of gift can be found, the act provides for a hierarchy of individuals who will be approached for donation at the time of death. The hierarchy has been expanded in the Revised UAGA to include grandchildren and grandparents who may authorize donation. It also clarifies that in the absence of family members, any adult who exhibited special care and concern for the deceased may also authorize donation if no one else in the hierarchy exists.
Does the Revised UAGA protect donors and their families from unauthorized removal of organs and tissues?
Yes. The act does include a new section that criminalizes the intentional falsification of a document of gift or a refusal to give when done to obtain financial gain. Any person falsifying a donation document would be guilty of a felony. There is federal legislation that already exists that makes it illegal to buy and sell organs in the United States.
Will the law ensure that my organs and tissues will go for transplant and not go to some research facility?
The Revised UAGA is very clear in specifying that all gifts go for transplantation or therapy first, even if a decedent has indicated on a document of gift that research consent has been given. It is only after all options have been exhausted to place organs and tissues with recipients that these gifts may go to a research facility (and only if there is consent to do so).