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Marrow for Money?

By February 16, 2011

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There is a court battle going on in California to determine if we might eventually see people getting paid to donate bone marrow. A group called The Institute for Injustice (IJ)  is spearheading the movement in an attempt to increase the numbers of Americans joining the national bone marrow registry.

According to the National Marrow Donor Program,  more than 10 000 patients in the US are diagnosed with diseases like leukemia or lymphoma each year, and bone marrow transplant may be their only hope for a cure.  The Be The Match registry helps locate donors for the more than 70% of individuals who need a transplant, but do not have a match in their family. There is an ongoing shortage of  donors in the registry, however, and many who need a transplant will not be able to find a match.

At the heart of the issue is the National Organ Donor Transplant Act (NOTA)  of 1984. This act makes it illegal to exchange money or compensation for organs such as kidneys.  While this makes sense for non- renewable organs, IJ representatives point out that bone marrow renews itself unlike solid organs, and is more comparable to the donation of sperm or blood which is legal to compensate for.

This is a similar position to that of an organization called Moremarrowdonors.org which hopes to be able to provide housing allowances, charity donations, and scholarships  to people who sign up on their website and can prove that they have donated marrow.

My gut feeling when I read this article was "No Way!" I don't like the idea of people donating anything for money (it isn't really "donating" is it? It's actually "selling" marrow).

First of all, I think it takes advantage of people in a lower economic class. Second of all, people can do some pretty crazy things for money. Would compensation lead to people lying about risk factors etc. just so they would be eligible to "donate" their marrow and get the cash they desperately need? And finally, bone marrow donation is not without health risks.  Complications from anesthetic and infections are among them. Would potential donors put their health in jeopardy just for the money?

But then, I looked at the situation from a different perspective. What if it was my child that needed a transplant and there was no match for him on the registry? Wouldn't I personally offer anything to the person who could save his life? Yes, hands down the answer would be yes.

So, maybe we have become a society that needs to get paid to help others. While that is pretty darn sad, should people who need transplants die because of it?

What is your opinion on this issue? Should marrow donors get paid for giving the gift of life?

February 17, 2011 at 12:21 am
(1) Anne says:

Both your points of view are well taken, Karen. I think overall though, the argument about how risky it becomes for the donee, donor and society at large when the donor gets paid wins. Maybe some hybrid of the two could work, where the process is private and conducted discreetly so that the funnel that collects potential donors in the first place has a narrow top, and the public is not informed about the opportunity.

February 17, 2011 at 7:27 am
(2) Trisha Torrey says:

Not choosing sides here one way or the other, but….

People are paid for donating blood every day.

Is there a difference between donating (or being paid for donating) something that your body can withstand giving up (because it replaces it itself – like blood or marrow) vs donating an organ or tissue upon death?

February 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm
(3) Pam Stephan says:

I have personally been tested for bone marrow donation. This is for a family member that really needs it. I was only a 50% match darnit! I would gladly donate blood, stem cells, bone marrow, etc to help a matched patient. I don’t want to be paid for helping a relative – ever! But I guess if it were for a non-relative and I had to travel and stay away from home for a bit, it might be nice to have some expense money. But money for the gift of life? Nah.

March 6, 2012 at 7:20 pm
(4) d says:

Being paid for your marrow is fine, people can make more marrow, help save someone, and it can help people that need cash, selling blood plasma is very similar but you just make enough for gas money. More people would get tested and donate marrow if the testing was paid for and if they donated they could earn some cash.

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