Page URL:

US Court of Appeals rules stem cell donors can be paid

5 December 2011
Appeared in BioNews 636

A ruling from a US federal appeals court means that blood stem cell donors may now receive a form of payment for their donation. A federal law that prohibits payment for organs does not apply to stem cells taken from bone marrow using a new method which avoids the extraction of bone marrow itself, the court said.

The National Organ Transplant Act allows donors to be paid for gamete and blood donations, but prohibits payment for solid organ donation, including bone marrow. The older method of obtaining stem cells involves removing bone marrow from a donor's hip, which is invasive and can be painful. Payment for this method remains illegal and a felony under US law introduced by Congress in part to prevent poorer people from being exploited and lured into undertaking risky medical procedures for financial gain.

The alternative method now used to obtain the majority of stem cells for transplant involves the donor being injected with a drug, which causes stem cells to move out from the bone marrow and into the blood. Once blood has been taken from the donor, it is then filtered, and the stem cells are removed.

Representing the three-judge panel of the ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote: 'Once the stem cells are in the bloodstream, they are a subpart of the blood, not the bone marrow'.

The legal action was bought against the US Government by the Institute for Justice in 2009, which is a non-profit law firm representing a coalition of patients and families affected by blood disorders, a doctor from Minnesota who specialises in bone marrow treatments, and California group The group said it wanted to encourage more people to donate by offering up to $3,000 in the form of scholarships, housing allowances, or gifts to charities.

Bone marrow and stem cell transplants are important techniques in the treatment of leukaemia and other blood disorders such as lymphoma, but the need for the donor to be a genetic match means that many people die waiting for a transplant. Jeff Rowes, a lawyer at the Institute for Justice claims the ruling 'could save thousands of lives'. He says almost 3,000 Americans die each year because they cannot find a donor.

The US Department of Justice is currently considering whether it should petition the Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision, or whether it should seek an appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Blood Feud: Court Backs Paying Some Donors.
Wall Street Journal |  12/11
Bone marrow donors can be compensated, appeals court rules
LA Times |  12/11
Court says some bone marrow donors can be paid, overturning law that made compensation a crime
Washington Post |  2 December 2011
Court Says Some Donors of Stem Cells Can Be Paid
New York Times |  12/11
Donors of bone marrow can be paid, court rules
Reuters |  12/11
28 August 2012 - by Daniel Malynn 
In this documentary of extremes, freelance journalist and documentary producer Storm Theunissen finds out how cash-strapped Britons can make money using their bodies. On one side, you have Storm's outlandish plans to make money by selling urine and earwax for medical testing. On the other, there is an altogether more interesting and insightful look at egg donation in both the UK and USA....
13 February 2012 - by Ruth Retassie 
US Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has called for a commission to investigate the ethical issues around IVF. He also wants a ban on human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, including research on donated embryos left over from IVF....
16 November 2009 - by Nisha Satkunarajah 
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has awarded fourteen teams a total of $230 million for the advancement of stem cell therapy. The CIRM was created as a measure by the Californian State to fund work on human embryonic stem (ES) cells.Californian voters approved the 10-year, $3 billion effort in 2004 largely to get around restrictions on ES cell research imposed by the administration of President George W Bush. This year, President Obama's administration relaxed thes...
5 February 2007 - by Heidi Nicholl 
The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) has released a set of guidelines for scientists working in this field. The 15-page report drafted by researchers, ethicists and legal experts from fourteen countries is intended to provide guidance for scientists working on stem cells but will...
31 July 2006 - by Heidi Nicholl 
A controversial scheme to extend the practise of 'egg sharing' has been approved by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to provide greater numbers of eggs for embryonic stem (ES) cell research. The practise of egg-sharing is currently allowed where a woman may receive discounted...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.