Matching For Money

24 May

On May 4th I wrote about bone marrow transplants (BMT) and the matching process.  Every year, thousands of people of all ages are diagnosed with blood cancers like leukemia. Many patients will die unless they get a bone marrow or cord blood transplant from a matching donor. Seventy percent of people who need a transplant do not have a donor in their family and depend on a stranger to save their life.[i]

Anyone who meets basic requirements can join a national registry and volunteer to donate their bone marrow to those in need. Those who donate their bone marrow are not financially compensated. Well at least they weren’t… until now.

In December, a three judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled that people who donate bone marrow through a new technology can be paid for doing so, overturning a law that makes it a felony punishable by prison sentence to pay donors for bone marrow and organs. There are multiple plaintiffs in the case including parents of children with diseases that can be deadly without bone marrow transplants and a doctor who is a bone marrow transplant expert said at least one in five of his patients die because no matching bone marrow donor can be found. [ii],  a nonprofit group in California, is an organization who would like to take advantage of this new ruling. Their website states the goal of the organization is to “to increase the number of bone marrow donors, especially among those with rare marrow types, offering donors small scholarships, housing allowances, or gifts to charity. After a person registers with and proves that he or she has given bone marrow, we would give that person a small scholarship, housing allowance, or make a gift to another charity in their honor.”[iii]

I am in support of anything that will motivate more people to join the registry. However, I am concerned that in time, getting a bone marrow transplant is going to be only available for those who are wealthy. Take for example men and women who need assistance conceiving a child. Those who are having trouble can turn to clinics to purchase eggs or sperm. This however is a very costly process and only some can afford it.  In a decade will the only way to receive a BMT is to work with an agency and a pay a large sum of money?

This will definitely be an interesting case that I believe has the potential to change the course for many people. I just hope it is for the positive. I will keep you posted as I read more.

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