Court Says It’s Okay to Sell Bone Marrow

More than 3,000 Americans die each year waiting for an appropriate genetic bone marrow match. Unlike blood that has four types, there are millions of possible marrow types.  Yet the bone marrow donor pool does not meet the need for the high number of people suffering from blood borne diseases.

In a Dec. 2011 ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal determined by  “a unanimous three-judge panel that the marrow cells taken from a donor’s blood were blood parts, not organ parts, and that a donor [was] therefore free to accept compensation for a donation.” The Obama Administration filed a petition for the courts to review this decision.  This request was denied.

Even though bone marrow is naturally replenishable, unlike livers, kidneys and other whole organs, its sale (as an organ) was barred under the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act.  This Act was intended ”to prevent wealthy patients in need of a transplant from luring the poor into submitting to a painful and risky procedure to make money.”  And it was illegal to traffic in organs.  However, with the Circuit Court having redefined bone marrow as a blood organ, the Administration fears the poor could suffer.

Roughly three years ago, a new procedure, apheresis, was perfected to retrieve marrow. This procedure extracts marrow from the bloodstream. Under the old procedure, cells were harvested only under anesthesia. Surgeons inserted a large needle into the hip bone and siphoned out the marrow cells. This method was both risky and painful.

Following this  scientific advance, an attorney for the Institute for Justice argued before the courts that “Compensation [would] expand the donor pool by at least hundreds and potentially thousands each year.”

In an opinion written by Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, the courts found, ”We construe ‘bone marrow’ to mean the soft, fatty substance in bone cavities, as opposed to blood, which means the red liquid that flows through the blood vessels.”

This victory was well received by families with members suffering with genetic disorders.  They are working to expand the donor pools now before they need the services and for those presently in need.

Even though the 9th Circuit decision was unanimous, the Supreme Court has not commented on the constitutional questions raised in the lawsuit or on the changes in the organ transplant law’s interpretation, said Jeff Rowes, the Institute for Justice lawyer who argued the case.

It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will agree with the plaintiff’s argument that Federal law treating bone marrow in the same way as organs that can’t be regenerated violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

Tens of thousands of patients are awaiting a life saving bone marrow match, but only half will get one. Let’s change those stats. LIKE this page for more information.


Related Stories:

Patients Struggle To Find Life-Saving Bone Marrow Donations

How (and Why) to Donate Your Brain to Science

Dying Immigrant Denied Kidney Transplant Because He Is Undocumented


Photo credit: Jack Bushmills

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John Kramer
John Kramer3 years ago

It is time for our government to repeal the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act. People should be allowed to sell thier own organs to make money. Wealthy people are willing to pay more than $1 million dollars for one kidney. There is break through technology, which makes it easier, safer and painless to collect bone marrow from a patient. We should be allowed to sell our bone marrow to the highest bidder.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons3 years ago

Anything for a profit, but on the other hand it may help get more donors and save more lives.

sandra m.
Past Member 3 years ago

Selling anything so someones life can be saved is wrong!
"Humanity!".....WHERE ARE YOU?

Lydia Price

Humans are already a commodity. Reminds me of Soylent Green.

lis Gunn
lis Gunn3 years ago

This puts a whole different meaning on the term "blood money" I find it somewhat obscene that people in other countries are paid for blood donations. And it isn't all that different from trading in human organs.

In Australia, blood is not sold. The Blood Bank screens would be donors and they are healthy and prepared to give blood do so when they wish to at appropriate intervals. Blood donors are respected and admired for their selfless acts. Similarly organ donors are not paid. Australia's richest man, Kerry Packer was given a kidney by his private helicopter pilot some years ago.
Packer spent millions equipping ambulances with defibrillators after a near fatal heart attack some years before that.
Perhaps paying for blood and organs is part of the reason that so many of the world's rich think nothing of organ trafficking and it is on the rise.

There is also an International DNA Register of would be marrow donors who are paid simply their costs and recovery expenses.

Amanda Goodwin
Amanda Goodwin3 years ago

I think we should all be free to do what we wish with our bodies. Be it donate blood, marrow, or organs. Why is it okay to give away, but not sell? That is ridiculous. If I want to sell my kidney for $20,000, that's my business.

Lee Witton
3 years ago

This country nor any other has the right to make organ donation mandatory. I have signed the place on my drivers license giving permission but it should not be mandatory. We still have a right to our own body (or so they say).

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia3 years ago

well considering the amount of pain a person endures to give this type of donation, money is a reasonable lure to get more people to donote. i just wish they would find less painful methods

Nimue Pendragon
Nimue Pendragon3 years ago


Jennifer C.
Past Member 3 years ago