You have just died. Your family is distraught. Before passing on, you made arrangements to donate your body to UT Southwestern Medical Center for the purpose of scientific training. What law governs how your body is treated?
Every state in the United States today has adopted some form of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act that governs how a person may donate body parts upon death. The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) governs organ donations for the purpose of transplantation, and it also governs the making of anatomical gifts of one’s cadaver to be dissected in the study of medicine. The law prescribes the forms by which such gifts can be made. It also provides that in the absence of such a document, a surviving spouse, or if there is no spouse, a list of specific relatives in order of preference, can make the gift. It also seeks to limit the liability of health care providers who act on good faith representations that a deceased patient meant to make an anatomical gift. The act also prohibits trafficking and trafficking in human organs for profit from donations for transplant or therapy. Under UAGA, one can give their body after death to institutions of medicine and science after their death as a means to further the sciences.
However, the problem of Obesity in modern-day America now affects if institutions will even take a donated body. Recently, some research hospitals and medical schools,including the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, have been turning down donor bodies because they’re too fat. The Cleveland Clinic refused a 6-foot-1, 350-pound body earlier this year because it was so big it couldn’t be stored or used for medical research or to help train students. However it is important to note that Clinic guidelines state that the hospital will accept bodies with BMIs of up to 40 and the 6-1, 350-pound body the Clinic turned down had a BMI of 46.2. Also, storage issues are another reason large bodies cannot be accepted. The trays and shelves typically used to hold cadavers are a standard size, and over-sized bodies often do not fit.
It is evident that being able to donate one’s body is a unique gift that gives people an opportunity to make a contribution to medical science. But what do you do when that choice is taken away due to how much you weigh?