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9th Circuit Lifts Ban on Pay for Bone Marrow Blood Draws

Posted Dec 2, 2011 1:23 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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Bone marrow harvested from a donor’s blood should not be included in a federal law that bans compensation for organ transplants, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.

When the National Organ Transplant Act became law in 1984, the extraction method for bone marrow was painful and risky, and authorities feared people would get hurt in the interest of making money, the Los Angeles Times reports. Now that bone marrow can be obtained through blood draws, in a process known as apheresis, a unanimous 9th Circuit panel found that the federal law does not cover the process.

"We construe 'bone marrow' to mean the soft, fatty substance in bone cavities, as opposed to blood, which means the red liquid that flows through the blood vessels," the opinion states. "The statute does not prohibit compensation for donations of blood and the substances in it, which include peripheral blood stem cells."

Doreen Flynn, a Maine woman, is the case’s lead plaintiff. She has three daughters with the genetic disorder Fanconi anemia, and they need marrow transplants after treatment. Like others in her situation, Flynn believes the 9th Circuit ruling will attract thousands of new donors.

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