Protecting Donors

July 3, 2012

Time Magazine’s Healthland blog featured a story this week about a recent US Court of Appeals decision upholding a ruling that allowed, in certain cases, compensation for bone-marrow donation. The bone-marrow must be collected via peripheral apheresis, a minimally-invasive blood draw technique, and compensation is capped at $3,000 which can not be paid in cash, but instead as a voucher for education, charity, housing or a similar purpose.


Jeffrey Kahn
, Deputy Director for Policy and Administration at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics is quoted in the piece, “In some sense, this is a policy experiment, and it could potentially be groundbreaking,” says . “If we compensate donors who give by apheresis and more people end up receiving [blood-] stem-cell transplants, maybe we should think about this for other kinds of donations.”


Already, Kahn tells Healthland, there is international trade for other organs. Websites allow people to find matching donors for kidneys, for example (people are born with two kidneys, but can live with one), and U.S. patients travel to developing nations to obtain transplants. There isn’t supposed to be compensation, but it’s hard to regulate such exchanges.


In an interview with the Bioethics Bulletin, Kahn offers additional comments.  He states that, “on the other hand, the policy experiment could show that payment actually suppresses donation, arguing that wider payment policies could actually undermine the goal of more stem cell or other tissue or organ donors.”


Kahn concludes, “Whatever policy approaches are tried, the protection of donors must remain paramount–both health and voluntary decision making.”

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