You are on page 1of 4

ORGAN DONATION ACT OF 1991 (RA 7170) A Report

The law of persons provides an adequate legal regime for the bodies of living persons, and little would be gained by seeking to apply the law of property to them. However, once parts are removed from a living person, there is undoubtedly a case for the parts to be regarded as property."

Article 776 of the Civil Code provides that the inheritance includes all property, rights and obligations of a person which are not extinguished by his death. Properties include real and personal properties. Now, what about a human body? Is it classified as a property? May a person execute a legacy or donation of all or part of his body? It is a rule well-established that there are no property rights in a human body. Any interference with it is considered as an invasion of a personal right. The notion that a living body cannot be the subject of property has been extended to the body after death. The body does not form part of the deceaseds estate and cannot be disposed of by will. 1 This is known as the No Property Rule. The basis for the rule is that a corpse is a

nullius in bonis, i.e., in the legal ownership of nobody. However, the No Property Rule is
not absolute. It admits an exemption. RA 7170 or the Organ Donation Act of 1991 is an act which authorizes the legacy or donation of all or part of a human body after death for certain purposes. Thus, a person may execute a legacy or donation of all or part of his body after death.

Pawlowski, Mark (2009) Property in body parts and products of the human body. Liverpool Law Review, 30 (1). pp. 35-55. ISSN 0144-932X

Any individual, at least eighteen (18) years of age and of sound mind, may give by way of legacy, to take effect after his death, all or part of his body for any purpose specified in Section 6 hereof.2 A decedent shall mean a deceased individual, not a living donor. However, it is interesting to note that no law explicitly prohibits the sale of human organs from live donors in the Philippines. A decedent may also refer to a still-born infant or fetus. Jurisprudence teaches us that the human embryo is not considered as a person because this classification was restricted to individuals who had been born alive. Nor could the embryo be properly classified as property. This act also enumerates the following persons who may become legatees or donees of human bodies or parts together with their specified purpose:: (a) Any hospital, physician or surgeon - For medical or dental education, research, advancement of medical or dental science, therapy or transplantation; (b) Any accredited medical or dental school, college or university - For education, research, advancement of medical or dental science, or therapy: (c) Any organ bank storage facility - For medical or dental education, research, therapy, or transplantation; and (d) Any specified individual - For therapy or transplantation needed by him.3 The legacy or donation can only be executed to those enumerated above only when each of their certain conditions is met. Legacy of all or part of the human body under Section 3 of the Act may be made by will. The rights to the succession are transmitted from the moment of the death of the decedent.4 Thus, the legacy becomes effective upon the death of the testator without waiting for probate of the will. If the will is not probated, or if it is declared invalid for testamentary purposes, the legacy, to the extent that it was executed in good faith, is nevertheless valid and effective.

2 3

Section 3, RA 7170 Section 6, ib. 4 Article 777, Civil Code

The definition of death under this law is when there is an irreversible cessation of all brain functions and further attempts at resuscitation or continued supportive maintenance would not be successful in restoring such natural functions. Aside from a will, a legacy of all or part of the human body may also be made in any document. It may be a card or any paper designed to be carried on a person. It must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses who must sign the document in his presence. If the testator cannot sign, the document may be signed for him at his discretion and in his presence, in the presence of two witnesses who must, likewise, sign the document in the presence of the testator. The legacy becomes effective still upon death of the testator. It shall be respected by and binding upon his executor or administrator, heirs, assigns, successors-in-interest and all members of the family. The delivery of the document of legacy during the testator's lifetime is not necessary to make the legacy valid. RA 7170 provides that the legacy may be made to a specified legatee or without specifying a legatee. However, the legatee may accept or reject the legacy or donation as the case may be. 5 If the legacy is made to a specified legatee who is not available at the time and place of the testator's death, the attending physician or surgeon, in the absence of any expressed indication that the testator desired otherwise, may accept the legacy as legatee.

Section 13 (a), ib.

If the legacy does not specify a legatee, the legacy may be accepted by the attending physician or surgeon as legatee upon or following the testator's death. The physician who becomes a legatee under this subsection shall not participate in the procedures for removing or transplanting a part or parts of the body of the decedent. No one may own the human body of another. A human body is not a property per

se. However, RA 7170 allows the proprietary status to the human body and its parts in only a
few limited circumstances after death. There is no property in a corpse but if a dead body or its parts had undergone a process of skill with the object of preserving it for the purpose of medical or scientific examination or teaching purposes, it thereby acquired a usefulness or value and was, accordingly, capable of becoming property and of being stolen.