(11/01/12) - Your bone marrow may be worth cash! There is a push to pay donors, in hopes of saving more lives. Hundreds of people die every year waiting for marrow donors. Most often, that is because their best match is a complete stranger.
When Doreen Flynn found out her daughter, Jordan, needed a life-saving bone marrow transplant, she would have paid any amount for a donor. "She could have passed away."
Jordan has a rare genetic blood disorder. No one in her family is a match, so Doreen turned to a national registry. "You're basically putting your faith in the system."
After two months of waiting, Jordan found a match. But her younger twin sisters have the same disorder and will also need transplants.
Doreen worries a match for them might not happen as fast, or even, at all, "you're helpless."
Jeff Rowes, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, 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.
"If you want more of something, you provide money for it," Rowes says.
Just this year, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Rowes. Now, for the first time, bone marrow donors can be compensated in nine states. But the National Marrow Donor Program Disagrees. In a statement, they said, "paying marrow donors creates a multitude of problems and will not help more patients receive transplants."
"Just because you can sell something, doesn't mean you ought to," says bioethicist Dr. Kenneth Goodman.
He argues that, at this time, there is not a good compensation plan in place. "If bone marrow is for sale, does that mean that only people that can afford to buy it are going to get it?"
But Doreen 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."
The ruling by the ninth circuit court applies only to bone marrow donations from blood drawn from the arm. It is still illegal to compensate for bone marrow taken from the hip. It is also illegal to pay for organs.
The group, More Marrow Donor is conducting a test to determine whether financial incentives will increase the number of marrow donors.
They will provide donors with a three-thousand dollar stipend, funded by charitable supporters, not paid for by the patients. You can find out more at www.moremarrowdonors.org.
ABC12 Main Station