February 15, 2011; Source: Mercury News | Just as people can get paid for donating blood plasma, a nonprofit argues that individuals willing to give some of their bone marrow cells to help in the treatment of diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma should also be compensated. California-based MoreMarrowDonors.org argues that giving people something in return for their bone marrow donations would increase the supply and boost the chances that people suffering from rare blood diseases would find a match.

However, federal law currently forbids that practice, so the group is suing to lift the restriction. According to the Mercury News, lawyers for the group and medical experts contend that the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act, which is meant to prevent a marketplace in irreplaceable organs, shouldn’t apply to donation of bone marrow cells. They say that bone marrow, unlike livers and kidneys, are replenished in the body within a few weeks after donation. MoreMarrowDonors.org also claims the federal law violates the Constitution’s right to equal protection, because people currently can be compensated for cells such as blood, eggs and sperm, but not bone marrow cells.

Under its plan, the group would make a gift of a scholarship, donate to a charity of the person’s choice, or help out with rent or mortgage payments. But so far, it hasn’t done any of that out of fear of being prosecuted. Jeff Rowes, an attorney for the Institute of Justice, who sides with MoreMarrowDonors.org said the compensation is “for the time and the inconvenience of coming in and doing something useful for somebody else. Because marrow cells are renewable, the donor is not giving anything up forever.”—Bruce Trachtenberg