Giving Your Body to Science in Texas

The Anatomical Board of the State of Texas is tasked with coordinating all whole body donations in the State of Texas. See their website at http://sab.state.tx.us/Donor.htm .

The donations are made through institutions that have signed on with the Board. Locally, the following institutions have Willed Body Programs: UT Southwestern Medical School, University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, Baylor College of Dentistry, and Parker College of Chiropractic Anatomical Gift Program. Each has a website with forms and informational guides.

Texas has two chapters on the law books that address body donations. The first is Chapter 691, which establishes the state board, its authority and some of its processes.

The second is Chapter 692A, which adopts Texas’ version of the Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, and addresses both organ donation for transplants and whole and partial body donation for research, therapy, and education. The law is very explicit about following a person’s wishes regarding donation, even if the relatives and health care agent are not in agreement.

A person can designate who will receive the donation, as long as it is one of six permitted recipients. An organ procurement organization may receive an anatomical gift to be used for transplantation, therapy, research or education. A hospital may receive the donation for research. A specific individual may be designated to receive a donated part, provided that if the individual is not a suitable candidate, the part goes to the next person on a wait list. An eye bank or tissue bank may be designated, but the whole body gift must be coordinated through the Anatomical Board of the State of Texas. A forensic science program may receive the gift. The sixth permitted recipient, by default, is the Anatomical Board of the State of Texas.

Every hospital in Texas is required to have an agreement with a procurement organization for coordinating the use of anatomical gifts. While it must “encourage sensitivity to families’ beliefs and circumstances in all discussions relating to the donations,” the hospital also must offer the family, at or immediately before death, the opportunity to donate.

The law also addresses a thorny issue – what if the person has signed an advance directive refusing additional medical treatment, but that same treatment is necessary to preserve the organs for transplant or therapy? Texas leans toward requiring the treatment, but sets forth some mandatory steps. The doctor is supposed to first confer with the person to get his or her wishes. If the person cannot communicate, the doctor talks to the medical agent or the next relative in line. If there is still no resolution, the issue is put before the hospital ethics board. And yes, the person is kept alive while these discussions are pending.

There is a lot more to the law – such as the bodies of unclaimed indigents being turned over to the Board, who can receive payment for a body part, and whether the same physician who pronounces a person dead also performs the organ removal. Texas Health & Safety Code, Chapters 691 and 692A. It makes for riveting reading.

Hammerle Finley – give us a call-we can help.

Virginia Hammerle is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and anAccredited Estate Planner by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils. She can be contacted at legaltalktexas@hammerle.com. The information contained in this article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice. ©2014