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Marlene Cooper Law

Anatomical Gifts

This article focuses on a type of charitable gift everyone is capable of making, regardless of the size of their estate. This type of gift is known as an anatomical gift – the giving of either your entire body after your death for medical research and education or certain body parts for transplant to others.

Even though the law in California concerning organ donations makes it relatively easy for organs to be donated, statistics show that the number of individuals needing organ or tissue donation is growing. If you are inclined to be a donor, here are some of the ways it can be done:

  • You can stipulate in your Advanced Health Care Directive to allow or disallow organ donation.
  • During terminal illness or sudden injury, you can express to two witnesses your desire to donate your organs.
  • While renewing or applying for a California driver’s license, you can check a box indicating your desire to be a donor. You can also go the Department of Motor Vehicles website and fill out the form.
  • In California, many hospitals are legally bound to ask about organ and tissue donations under certain circumstances. If you left no instructions concerning organ donation, the person you designate on your Advanced Health Care Directive to make your decisions (or the next of kin, if no Advanced Health Care Directive exists) will most likely have to decide whether to donate your organs or not.

Any good estate plan should include an Advance Health Care Directive. If you decide to be a donor, you can tailor your Advance Health Care Directive to reflect any limitations on the use of your anatomical gift. For example, you can state that you do not want any organs donated to a prisoner serving a life sentence. As another example, you can designate a particular research facility to receive your body.

Whether or not to make an anatomical gift is an intensely personal decision. If you are inclined to make such a gift, sometimes called “the gift of life”, make sure you take steps to make your gift a reality. © 2012 by Marlene S. Cooper. All rights reserved.

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