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Ruling on Paying Stem Cell Donors Stands

MedPageToday, 2012

A federal appeals court has refused to reconsider a 2011 ruling that declared it legal to pay people to donate hematopoietic stem cells.
In December, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California decided unanimously that, because donor stem cells can be harvested from peripheral blood, the process than an organ transplant.
Therefore, according to the ruling, it is not covered by the National Organ Transplant Act that makes it illegal to pay organ donors.
On Tuesday, the full court rejected the request, with none of its 25 active judges supporting a rehearing.
Some of the plaintiffs in the case are parents of children with diseases, such as leukemia, that can be deadly without bone marrow transplants.
Another plaintiff is a doctor and bone marrow transplant expert who said at least one in five of his patients die because no matching bone marrow donor can be found.
A California nonprofit that would like to offer incentives to bone marrow donors is also a party to the lawsuit.
The group, MoreMarrowDonors.org, had proposed offering $3,000 in awards in the form of scholarships, housing allowances, or gifts to charities, at first to minority and mixed-race bone marrow cell donors.
Opponents argue that providing payments for bone marrow could make transplants more widely available to the rich than to people with less money, that poor people could be exploited to sell marrow, or that payments might spur an uptick in the existing market of organ thefts.
Proponents of paying donors argue that there aren't enough matches in the National Bone Marrow Program registry, and providing incentives would allow more life-saving matches to be made.
The plaintiffs in the case argued that bone marrow donation is not so different from blood, plasma, sperm, or egg donation, which are not protected under the National Organ Transplant Act.