You Be the Judge

The Case of the Bone Marrow Buyer

Should a desperate mother be allowed to entice donors with cash? You be the judge.

bone marrow mother
Noma Bar for Reader’s Digest

All Doreen Gummoe could do was hope. Her daughter Jordan Flynn had been born with Fanconi anemia, a rare inherited blood disorder that destroys bone marrow and makes sufferers highly susceptible to cancer. In spring 2012, when Jordan was 14, doctors found preleukemia cells in her blood. Without an immediate bone marrow transplant, she would likely die within months.

Typically, siblings are the most viable donors, but Jordan’s brothers weren’t matches. In 2005, Gummoe had given birth to twin girls, Julia and Jorja, who also have Fanconi anemia. Someday, they will likely each need transplants as well.

Gummoe, who lives in Lewiston, Maine, turned to the National Marrow Donor Program’s registry, praying to find a willing donor for Jordan in the 2 percent of people who are registered. Sometimes a donor isn’t willing to undergo the procedure, even if he or she is a match. Years ago, transplants required a painful biopsy in the pelvic bone. Today, the most common, and virtually painless, method, apheresis, involves connecting donors to a machine that draws blood, harvests stem cells, and returns the blood, which naturally regenerates the stem cells that have been removed.

“If there were compensation for bone marrow donors, that might put more people in the registry,” says Gummoe. “There’d be a better chance of finding a donor.”

However, according to 1984’s National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA), buying and selling organs, including bone marrow, is illegal. So in 2009—two and a half years before Jordan would need her transplant—Gummoe became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against the U.S. attorney general to challenge that law.

“It’s legal for people to pay for blood, sperm, and eggs,” argues 
Jeff Rowes, attorney for Institute for Justice, the nonprofit, public-interest law firm that filed the suit. “Plus, it’s crazy to lump in bone marrow with solid organs, like kidneys, that a donor can’t grow back.”

The government responded that the “statute plainly classifies ‘bone marrow’ as an organ for which compensation is prohibited.” 
Furthermore, by enacting NOTA into law, Congress took the position that “human body parts should not be viewed as commodities.”

Should it be legal to pay donors for bone marrow? You be the judge.

Next: The Verdict

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15 thoughts on “The Case of the Bone Marrow Buyer

  1. Yes, if it grows back, it should be legal to sell. If it doesn’t grow back, it should only be used for life-or-death situations-not bribes of cash. While the girl in this story does have a life-or-death situation, bone marrows should be used only when absolutely necessary. You can do what you must do without cash.

  2. It is wrong for the government to control this deep into our health. It seems to me that mom feels that if doners were paid then instead of 2% of doners to choose from there would be many more come forward. My son while in college told me the biggest income for them was plasma withdraws. Im a nurse Pheresis is as simple as hooking up an IV line and u sit in a comfy chair while saving a person’s life. My mother just died because her insurers wouldn’t pay for a simple stem cell transplant…. if only the government knew she never got to sit in that comphy chair and wouldn’t die. It’s a simple process…… everyone think about it. if we could have paid someone we would have to save her but unfortunately that was not the case. i ultimately left that job because I couldn’t deal with the constant red tape and people dying left and right from government control.

  3. Donating bone marrow, even by apheresis, is so much more complicated than donating blood. There are so many different factors involved that the two cannot really be compared.

    Plus, putting money into the equation would disturb the equilibrium.

  4. Stop having meetings about what I can and cannot do with my body. I can feed it, tan it, shave it, use it, sell it, rent it, pawn it, kill it, abuse it, spoil it, love it, share it…whatever. It’s mine, end of story.

  5. I believe buying bone marrow should be allowed as long as it doesn’t endanger anyone’s life or put it at risk in any way.

  6. so those who could afford to pay would benefit whereas those who are unable to pay would not and thus create another disparity based on income? here’s one option….don’t reproduce if you’re going to pass a genetic life threatening disease to a child, ESPECIALLY when there is already a child in the family with the disease as it’s selfish and irresponsible!

  7. So let me get this straight. The question is whether a person should be “allowed” to buy life-saving treatment in lieu of a matching donor.

    Here are some equally absurd questions whose answers are so obvious they do not merit response.

    -“My child is deficient in Vitamin C. Should I be
    allowed to buy him fresh oranges from the local farmstand?”
    -“I have no job and
    no money, and my landlord will evict me next month if I don’t pay him my rent.
    I was just offered a job paying $50K/year. Should I take it?”

    The inane arguments against voluntarily buying & selling viable body parts I read on here are based on the vague premise of “selling body parts is wrong.” Based on this idea, body parts are used to provide labor which make products and provide services that we call “work.” Should my employer not be allowed to compensate
    me for my work and only be permitted to have volunteers? How do you think the quality and quantity of labor output would result from this sort of arrangement? More importantly, how would any of us engage in any transactions at all, or even have the means to obtain different varieties and quality of goods?

  8. As a bone marrow donor recipient and someone who has campaigned for donors, I know that people can be wary of donating. I think if compensation was involved, even a couple hundred dollars, people would be much more willing to give. College students donate plasma for money, and the bone marrow donation process is similar. A poor family could easily raise money for the compensation. Most people will help out a child who has cancer or another live-threatening illness.

  9. Introducing money into any activity shifts the nature of things. I think the answer to this lies in what kind of society do we want to be – altruistic or materialistic. Personally, I believe in altruism and true kindness towards others. There is a place for that in the American society. Introducing payment into this type of action (donation of one’s personal body/fluids/etc.) would change it from an action to a transaction.

    1. I agree with you, unfortunately our society is already a materialistic one. We already pay exorbitant prices for eggs and sperm.

  10. This is an excellent idea…compensating people for marrow donation will save lives!!

  11. Marrow I NOT an organ and can be collected in a similar way that blood is. Why not compensate for marrow like it is done with blood??

  12. I don’t think it’s right for anyone to regulate what we can do with our own bodies. I don’t believe it’s the right thing to take money for the part needed but it would be okay for the recipients family to pay for the procedure and any expenses incurred by the donor. We can give billions of dollars to foreign countries but someone can’t be given money in return for helping someone live????? It is my business to do as I wish with my body!!!!

  13. I don’t think body parts should be bought and sold. As we’ve seen on some wierd t.v. shows, there are those who will kill people to harvest all their main body parts so they can sell them and make a lot of money. Only the very wealthy will be able to buy body parts. On the other hand, I think people could be allowed to give body parts to others. Then, later, be able to give a monetary thank you gift, if they want to (but completely optional), perhaps because all the person donating the body part went and will go thru after donation, like dealing with scar tissue, bleeding scar tissue, pain, skin that feels numb, etc.

  14. it grows back- blood, sperm, eggs– and bone marrow- all grow back.

    is payment not allowed because it’s a life saving tool? i never thought about how crazy that is until now.

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