Bone marrow donors soon may be compensated

Posted: June 27, 2012 at 6:11 pm

A mother with three daughters who have Fanconi anemia sued the federal government for the right to compensate bone marrow donors. The U.S. Attorney General will not pursue the case with the Supreme Court, thus making a lower court's ruling law. That means bone marrow donors may now receive vouchers worth up to $3,000. NBC's Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

By JoNel Aleccia

Certain bone marrow donors could soon be compensated for their life-saving stem cells after federal officials declined to take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, allowing a lower court order to become law.

At least one agency, MoreMarrowDonors.org, hopes to begin a pilot program offering up to $3,000 in scholarships, housing vouchers or charity donations -- but not cash -- in exchange for matching donations of marrow cells derived from blood.

This decision is a total game-changer, said Jeff Rowes, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which filed the lawsuit three years ago on behalf of cancer victims and others seeking bone marrow matches. Any donor, any doctor, any patient across the country can use compensation in order to get bone marrow donors.

That may be the effect of the decision by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to forgo a high court review of a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that certain kinds of bone marrow donations are exempt from federal rules banning compensation.

Under the ruling, donors who provide marrow cells through a process similar to blood donation, called peripheral blood stem cell apheresis, can be compensated because those cells are no longer regarded as organs or organ parts as defined in the National Organ Transplant Act.

The ruling does not apply, however, to bone marrow obtained through traditional techniques that use a needle to aspirate the cells from the hip.

Although it applies only to nine states covered by the 9th Circuit Court, Rowes expects the effects to be felt nationwide.

The move met with praise from Doreen Flynn, 36, of Lewiston, Maine, the lawsuits namesake and the single mother of three daughters with an incurable blood disorder called Fanconi anemia.

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Bone marrow donors soon may be compensated

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