Bone marrow as an “organ”: New Regulation By The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
By Julie Killian
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is attempting to implement a new regulation that would redefine bone marrow as an “organ.” This new regulation is generated by the issue of compensation for bone marrow donation which has had historical tribulations. Doreen Flynn who has three children with Faconi anemia, a genetic disorder that can lead to bone marrow failure, needed the donation for the survival of her children. Flynn has fought in court to protect the legalization of bone marrow donor compensation.
According to her, the new regulation would have a devastating impact on those who need the bone marrow donation much like her children did. According to the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) enacted in 1984, bone marrow donors who receive compensation are to be punished for five years in prison. However, the Congress exempted blood from its definition of a human organ, and thus NOTA became inapplicable to bone marrow. When NOTA was enacted bone marrow transplantation could only be preformed through a needle extraction procedure from the pelvic bone.
Several decades after, bone marrow donations has become much safer using apheresis,a medical technology in which the blood of a donor or patient is passed through an apparatus that separates out one particular constituent (e.g. stem cells) and returns the remainder to the circulation. It is thus an extracorporeal therapy. Apheresis entails a five-day treatment, in which donors are injected with a drug that stimulates blood stem cell production. Despite being a safe and non invasive technology, donors are deterred from donation by the time-consuming nature of this procedure.
To disqualify compensation for marrow donation would only make it more difficult for those in need of such donation. Bone marrow recipients require specific matches for successful transplants and about 1000 people die annually in the US waiting for bone marrow donation.Removing compensation for bone marrow donation seems ethically inconsistent when considering other forms of donation such as blood, sperm and eggs which generate cash rewards.The new regulation faces a tremendous opposition from those who believe compensation can help save lives.
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