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Bone Marrow Donors Can Now Be Compensated, *Sometimes*

The Washington Post recently reported on an interesting decision by the 9th Circuit US court of Appeals that will permit some bone marrow donors to be compensated.  It is a crime, punishable up to five years in prison, to compensate a bone marrow donor who has bone marrow extracted from their bones.  There is a new transplanting method that circumvents that law,

The unanimous, three-judge panel of the court did say it remains a felony to compensate donors for undergoing an older transplant method, which extracts the marrow from the donors’ bones.

But the court said the new technology isn’t covered by the law because actual bone marrow isn’t taken from the donor. Instead, specialized cells that grow into marrow are taken from a donor’s bloodstream, and is basically a blood donation, not an organ transplant, the court said. It noted that two-thirds of bone marrow transplants employ the newer process.

This ruling may boost donations, as well.

Advocates for paying donors said compensation will spur even more donations. Detractors argue that donor compensation will exploit the poor to undergo risky medical procedures to benefit the wealthy.

“The point of the ban on selling organs is to protect people from ignoring the medical risk for money,” said Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist with the University of Pennsylvania. Caplan said the ruling Thursday may unintentionally support campaigns to pay donors in other medical fields such as compensating women for their eggs.

When I first read this article the first thing I thought of was whether there could be a link to egg donor compensation.  Under similar logic to the older marrow procedure, egg donors cannot be paid for genetic material, consent to adoptions, relinquishment of parental rights, the number of eggs retrieved, etc.  However, a donor can be compensated for her pain and suffering.  As Caplan states, public policy is to protect society from ignoring medical risk in the face of making a few bucks.

Obviously, since egg donation hasn’t changed the way this bone marrow extraction has, we will not likely see a similar change.   Would we even want an egg donor to be compensated for her genetic material?  Food for thought.




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