The Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm, continues their fight to lift the ban against compensating bone marrow donors amid a heated debate on the issue.

The firm appeared in court on Feb. 15 and argued their suit, brought against the U.S. attorney general that seeks to amend a restriction on compensating bone marrow donors.

The cells in bone marrow are used to treat individuals suffering from leukemia, which affects many citizens in the U.S each year. According to the National Cancer Institute, there were 21,840 estimated deaths in the country resulting from the disease last year.

Bone marrow compensation is outlawed under the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984.

According to Institute for Justice staff attorney Robert McNamara, the law was passed in order to thwart illegal “kidney markets” from receiving compensation. Meanwhile, payment for blood donations remained legal.

“The problem is, whatever you think about Congress’ concerns about kidney markets, they just have no application to bone marrow,” McNamara said during a recent interview. “Donating bone marrow is safe and donated bone marrow regenerates. In the same sense that a blood donor regenerates the blood cells he’s donated, a marrow donor will completely regenerate the marrow cells that he’s donated.”

McNamara added that the ban violates the equal protection clause of the constitution, which states that the government must treat similar things similarly and different things differently.

“Because there’s no reason to distinguish between blood and bone marrow, the prohibition on bone marrow donors is unconstitutional,” he said.

A March 1 Los Angeles Times editorial challenged the Institution’s suit and claimed that while the organization did raise valid points in favor of societal good, a plan for compensation could ultimately backfire.

In the Times editorial, the newspaper claimed compensation for bone marrow could prompt some donors to lie about their health backgrounds in order to get the money. The writer explained a case in which a Colorado man was infected with HIV after receiving a blood transfusion from a man who lied about his sexual history.

Additionally, the Times editorial held that allowing financial rewards could breach standards put in place by the World Marrow Donor Association, ultimately leading to a loss of international accreditation for marrow institutions in the U.S. The author moves that, as a result, other countries could decline to accept or donate bone marrow in America.

“It simply doesn’t make any sense to say that someone could conceal their health history in exchange for a quick buck, because you can’t get a quick buck by donating bone marrow,” McNamara said, rebutting the article’s claims. He explained that after donors sign up, it’s usually years before their marrow is actually used, and specific matches come few and far between, especially for minorities.

Gregory Dale

AFRO News Editor