by: Begley Law Group

by Thomas D. Begley, Jr., CELA

[Article originally published in Straight Word]  Some clients are willing to make gifts of their bodies for medical research. The New Jersey Revised Anatomical Gift Act is found at N.J.S.A. 26:6-77 et. seq. Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) has an Anatomical Association that can be helpful in facilitating these gifts. Gifts may be made before or after the death of the individual. Preregistration before death is preferred.


  • “Adult” is an individual at least 18 years of age.[1]
  • “Agent” means a person authorized to make health care decisions on the principal’s behalf by a Power of Attorney for health care; or, expressly authorized to make an anatomical gift on the principal’s behalf by any other record signed by the principal.[2]
  • Anatomical Gift. “Anatomical Gift” means a donation of all or a part of a human body to take effect after the donor’s death for the purpose of transplantation, therapy, research, or education.[3]
  • “Decedent” means a deceased individual whose body or part is or may be the source of an anatomical gift. The term includes a stillborn infant and, subject to restrictions imposed by law other than this Act, a fetus.[4]
  • Document of Gift. “Document of Gift” means a donor card or other record used to make an anatomical gift. The terms include a statement or symbol on a driver’s license, identification card, or donor registry.[5]
  • “Recipient” means an individual into whose body a decedent’s part has been or is intended to be transplanted.[6]
  • “Tissue” means a portion of the human body other than an organ or an eye. The term does not include blood, unless the blood is donated for the purpose of research or education.[7]
  • Tissue Bank. “Tissue Bank” means a person that is licensed, accredited, or regulated under federal or state law to engage in the recovery, screening, testing, processing, storage, or distribution of tissue.[8]

Who May Make An Anatomical Gift Before Donor’s Death?

  • The donor may make a gift, if the donor is an adult or if the donor is a minor and is emancipated or is authorized under the laws of the state law to apply for a driver’s license;[9]
  • An agent of the donor, unless the advance directive for health care or other record prohibits the agent from making an anatomical gift, is also authorized to make anatomical gifts;[10]
  • A parent of the donor, if the donor is an unemancipated minor;[11] or
  • The donor’s guardian.[12]

Person Who May Make Anatomical Gift of Decedent’s Body or Part

An anatomical gift may be made by the following classes of persons who are reasonably available, in the order of priority listed:[13]

  1. An agent who could have made an anatomical gift immediately before the decedent’s death.
  2. The spouse, civil union partner, or domestic partner of the decedent.
  3. Adult children of the decedent.
  4. Parents of the decedent.
  5. Adult siblings of the decedent.
  6. Another adult who is related to the decedent by blood, marriage, or adoption, or exhibited special care and concern for the decedent.
  7. The person who was acting as the guardian of the decedent at the time of the decedent’s death.
  8. Any other person having the authority to dispose of a decedent’s body, including the administrator of a hospital in which the decedent was a patient or resident immediately preceding death. In the absence of actual contrary indication by the decedent, the administrator shall make anatomical gift of the decedent’s body or part.

If more than one member of a class is available and there is a dispute, the majority rules.[14] A person may not make an anatomical gift if, at the time of the decedent’s death, a person in a prior class is reasonably available to make or to object to the making of an anatomical gift.[15]

Manner of Making An Anatomical Gift

A person may become a donor by completing an application form. Upon acceptance, the individual receives a wallet card identifying them as a donor. It is suggested that the individual discuss his or her intentions with his or her next-of-kin. The registration can be rescinded, if the donor has a change of mind. If the donor moves outside of New Jersey, they can contact Rutgers-RWJMS Anatomical Association for assistance in finding a Program with a medical school in the new location. The donor or donor’s family are responsible for payment of transportation costs by the contracted, licensed funeral director, arranged by the university. The current fee is $750. The Anatomical Association assumes responsibility for the cost of cremation and burial. Acceptance of the gift is not automatic. Reasons for rejection may include: autopsy, presence or suspected presence of Jakob-Creutzfeldt Disease, AIDS, “C-Diff,” MRSA, TB, extremes of obesity or emaciation, beginning stages of decomposition, unhealed surgery, or previous embalming.

Following the completion of the study, the Anatomical Association cremates the remains and the family may request the cremated remains to be returned. The Anatomical Association arranges for the return of the cremains at no cost to the family.

The same individual cannot make an organ donation separate from a gift of the body.


Attorneys preparing Wills for clients should discuss anatomical gifts and prepare appropriate documentation. Many clients are willing to make these donations, but have never given the idea any thought.

Begley Law Group, P.C. has served the Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia area as a life-planning firm for over 85 years. Our attorneys have expertise in the areas of Personal Injury Settlement Consulting, Special Needs Planning, Medicaid Planning, Estate Planning, Estate & Trust Administration, Guardianship, and Estate & Trust Litigation. Contact us today to begin the conversation.

[1]N.J.S.A. 26:6-8.

[2]N.J.S.A. 26:6-8.

[3]N.J.S.A. 26:6-8.

[4]N.J.S.A. 26:6-8.

[5]N.J.S.A. 26:6-8.

[6]N.J.S.A. 26:6-8.

[7]N.J.S.A. 26:6-8.

[8]N.J.S.A. 26:6-8.

[9] N.J.S.A. 26:6-80.

[10] N.J.S.A. 26:6-80.

[11] N.J.S.A. 26:6-80.

[12] N.J.S.A. 26:6-80.

[13] N.J.S.A. 26:6-85.

[14] N.J.S.A. 26:6-85.

[15] N.J.S.A. 26:6-85.