Court rules bone marrow donors may be compensated: Ruling holds potential effect on safety of blood donation

In a landmark decision that could change the face of volunteer donation, certain bone marrow donors could be compensated for their donations of life saving stem cells.  

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder decided to forgo a review of a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stating that certain kinds of bone marrow donations are exempt from a federal law banning compensation for organ donation.

If upheld, the ruling would have gone to the Supreme Court. 

In 1984, Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act which, among other provisions, made it illegal to buy and sell organs and organ parts. Bone marrow was included under this act. 

Mother of Three fights for compensated donation

The appeals court ruling was championed by Doreen Flynn, a mother of three girls who suffer from an incurable condition known as Fanconi’s Anemia. Currently, the only treatment for Fanconi’s Anemia is a bone marrow transplant. However; before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court ruling, bone marrow transplant had been a volunteer-only donation process, much like whole blood donation. The agency is preparing to offer $3,000 worth of scholarships, charity donations or housing vouchers as compensation — not cash — for matching donations of marrow cells.   

The ruling is limited in its capacity (the 9th Circuit Court only applies to 9 states), but the effects could have national implications beyond just bone marrow donation. 

Watch: Doreen Flynn’s fight for her daughters


Watch: National Marrow Donor Program opposes compensation



Potential impact of the Appeals Court ruling on Lane Blood Center and the national blood supply 


In the blood industry, the Food & Drug Administration has demonstrated that volunteer donor blood is safer than compensated. The National Blood Policy, published in the Federal Register on March 8th, 1974, disallowed compensated whole blood donation in the United States.


1984 Ruling on Organ Donation (includes section on organ organizations) 

42 USC Sec. 273  

1984 Ruling on Organ Donation (includes section on organ procurement) 

42 USC Sec. 274

MSNBC Video/Story on Bone Marrow Donation (June 26th, 2012)

Bone Marrow Donors Eligible for Compensation 

National Marrow Donor Program/Be the Match

Campaign to allow compensation for Marrow Donors











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