Healthy Living

Should bone marrow be for sale? Mom says yes

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We can sell our cars, houses, furniture, but should we be allowed to sell our bone marrow?

Doreen Flynn thinks so. When she found out her daughter Jordan needed a life-saving bone marrow transplant, she would have paid any amount for a donor.

"Why not do it? She could have passed away," she says.

Jordan has a rare genetic blood disorder. No one in her family was a match, so Flynn had to rely on a national registry.

"You're basically putting the faith in the system," Flynn said.

After two months of waiting, Jordan did find a match. She had her transplant and is now recovering. But her younger twin sisters have the same disorder and will also need transplants. A match for them might not happen as fast, or even at all.

"You're helpless, and as a parent, that's the worst feeling you can have for a child," Flynn said.

Jeff Rowes with the Institute for Justice believes more would be willing to donate if they were paid. He teamed up with the Flynns and others to challenge the National Organ Transplant Act, an almost 30-year-old law that prohibited compensating bone-marrow donors -- punishable by up to five years in prison. Rowes argues that bone marrow, unlike organs, renews itself.

"We allow people to sell sperm and ova and other kinds of renewable parts of their body. If you want more of something, you provide money for it," Rowes said.

Just this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with Rowes. Now, for the first time, bone-marrow donors can be compensated in nine states.

"For our clients, the victory is exhilarating," Rowes said.

But the National Marrow Donor Program, which runs the world's largest registry, disagrees. In a statement, they said, "Paying marrow donors creates a multitude of problems and will not help more patients receive transplants."

They claim since other countries don't allow compensation, the U.S. would limit its participation in international exchanges, resulting in fewer donors.

"Just because you can sell something, just because you can do anything, doesn't mean you ought to," said bioethicist Kenneth Goodman.

Goodman says at this time, there is not a good compensation plan in place.

"If bone marrow is for sale, does that mean that only people who can afford to buy it are going to get it?" Goodman said.

Goodman believes paying for bone marrow could also attract the wrong kind of donors who give for the wrong reasons.

But Flynn expects it will give patients, maybe even her own kids, a better chance at finding a match.

"I just want them to have the chance to have a normal, healthy life," Flynn said.

The ruling by the Ninth Circuit applies only to bone marrow donors who donate through the most common method: having blood cells drawn from the arm. It is still illegal to compensate for bone marrow taken from the hip.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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