This Act overhauled the 1968 Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA). Even though the 1968 UAGA successfully constructed a consistent pattern for states to follow in revising their own anatomical gift legislation, it failed to increase the number of donated transplantable organs. The 1968 UAGA did not address the issue of commercial sale of organs. Between 1968 and 1987, there were significant advances in transplant science and the practice of organ transplantation. The 1968 UAGA could not have provided for some of these advances. Consequently, the 1968 UAGA did not address many important issues that developed over time.
In an attempt to respond, a new version of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act was drafted in 1987. The 1987 UAGA attempted to address many of the holes in the 1968 Act. It covered the following:
- Explicitly prohibited the sale of human organs. Federal law expressly prohibits the sale of human tissue with the exception of blood, sperm, or human eggs.
- Guaranteed the priority of a decedent’s wishes over the decedent’s family members with respect to their objections to organ donation.
- Streamlined the process of completing the necessary documents to effect organ donation.
- Mandated that hospitals and emergency personnel develop procedures of “routine inquiry/required request.” This provision requires hospitals to ask patients, upon admittance to the hospital, or their families, at patient’s death, about organ donation. If the patient expresses the intent to donate his or her organs, that information is added to the patient’s record.
- Permitted medical examiners and coroners to provide transplantable organs from subjects of autopsies and investigations within certain conditions.
The 1968 UAGA enjoyed unanimous approval from every state; however, the 1987 UAGA was opposed in many states. The key issues revolved around three of the five new provisions in the 1987 Act. First, the debate focused on the priority of the donor’s intent over his or her family’s objections. Second, states were concerned about the “routine inquiry/required request” language. Third, there was debate over the new authority that allowed medical examiners to donate a deceased’s organs or other body parts. Although it was intended to create uniformity among the disparate state statutes that had been passed to fill gaps left by the 1968 Act, several states enacted transplant legislation on their own, rather than ratify the 1987 UAGA legislation.
Under the 1987 UAGA, medical examiners or coroners may release organs for transplantation only when they have custody of a body and the deceased has no next-of-kin. There must be a reasonable search for next of kin by competent authorities. Officials may not remove organs or tissue for transplanting unless a specific state law grants this authority.