A single mother with three young daughters who’ve been diagnosed with an incurable blood disorder is fighting to legalise paid bone marrow donations. Doreen Flynn’s already watched her eldest daughter, 13-year-old Jordan, undergo a bone marrow transplant this year and says it’s only a matter of time before her youngest daughters, a pair of twins aged 7, will be next.
To make matters worse, she couldn’t donate marrow even if she wanted to––neither she, nor her ex-husband and two sons are matches.
“I would (donate marrow) but I have to rely on somebody else,” she told the TODAY show.
There are 10,000 people who wait for bone marrow transplants each year, but only half receive them, according to the National Marrow Donor Program.
That’s part of the reason Flynn has become the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit that would change federal law banning paid bone marrow donations.
“Bone marrow is just like anything else in the world… it’s valuable. And if you compensate people for it, you’re going to get more of it, it’s just that simple,” Flynn’s lawyer, Jeff Rowes of the Institute for Justice, told MSNBC.
In his opinion, bone marrow shouldn’t be included under the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, the law that bans buying and selling organs. Unlike, say, a kidney or a heart, bone marrow regenerates within 90 days and doesn’t require invasive surgery.
And thanks to medical advances, bone marrow transplants don’t necessarily have to mean sticking a huge needle into someone’s bone. A new practice allows doctors to sift out marrow cells from regular blood donations.
Even so, Rowe and Flynn are facing stiff opposition from the National Marrow Donor Program, which argues that paying U.S. bone marrow donors would cause more harm than good.
“If the NMDP were to follow this practice of compensation, then we would not have access to the additional eight and a half million donors that are available worldwide, nor would those patients in those countries have access to the U.S. donors,” Michael Boo, the NMDP’s chief strategy officer, told the TODAY show.
While they’re unwilling to budge, the same can’t be said for a good chunk of consumers. More than 40 per cent of Americans in a recent NPR-Thomson Reuters Health Poll said they’d be more willing to donate organs for payment. But rather than cutting a check, the majority (60 per cent) said donations should be rewarded with health care credit.
“I think the market has become such an important guiding principle in so many areas of our lives, including health care, that it becomes harder to say why shouldn’t a person who donates organs make some money too,” he said. “Altruism is very, very important, but in this case, the lives of people are very, very important.”