Last week, we posed a question you probably don’t hear every day: would you “donate” a kidney to the tune of $1 million? Your responses were really fun to read. Some were appalled that anyone would even consider taking cash for organ donation. Others were appalled that more people weren’t jumping onto the operating table to collect the handsome reward. And while the post was meant as a completely hypothetical situation that none of us will likely find ourselves confronted with, the topic of organ/tissue/etc. donation is clearly a serious topic that hits home to many.
A few weeks ago, we were indulging our nerd-selves by catching up on a few 60 Minutes and Rock Center episodes saved on our DVR. One particular story on Rock Center really captured our attention and we found ourselves discussing it throughout the week. We thought it’d be interesting to let the discussion to spill over onto the blog to hear your thoughts.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the story. A single mother’s three daughters all have a rare blood condition that requires a bone marrow transplant for their survival. Only 30% of those needing a transplant will find a match within their own family, leaving the remaining 70% to find a match from a stranger on donor lists. The problem is that even if a match is found on the donor list, only 50% of those people ever fulfill their commitment to donate when a match is found. Some don’t want to give up their time, others think it’s too big of a hassle, and others simply don’t respond. To help find willing donors for her children, this desperate mother challenged the federal government’s ban on compensating donors. The woman’s lawyer argues, “Bone marrow is just like anything else in the world… it’s valuable. And if you compensate people for it, you’re going to get more of it, it’s just that simple.” In March, she won her legal battle, making compensation to donors legal so long it’s in the form of coupons or goods (not money).
If you’re interested, you can read/watch the story here, but that’s the gist of it. There’s two sides to every story and those opposed to compensating say that it’s unnecessary and that altruism — not money — should be the motive for donating. And while this particular story only touched on bone marrow, this debate can also extend to other organ donations.
This won’t be a future He Says/She Says topic, because Joanna and I pretty much see eye-to-eye on the issue. In the case of the story we shared, we absolutely think those searching should be able to compensate donors to incentivize and expedite match transplants. There’s definitely a role for regulation and setting maximum compensation amounts to avoid bidding wars and ensure fair access to all income classes. And while we’d love for altruism to be the motive in all donation scenarios, bone marrow is bone marrow is bone marrow, and if you need it, you should be able to do more than just rely on altruism.
Bone marrow regenerates so it’s in a different league than, say, kidney donation. This would likely require even more stringent regulation, but we still think the point remains: if allowing donors to be compensated means more people receive the organs they need, it’s something worth considering. But scientists will probably be growing organs out of test tubes soon, so in all likelihood (and hopefully) this whole post will be moot in a few years.
What’s your take? Yay or nay on compensation for organ, blood, marrow donation? And if you’d like to find out more information on registering as an organ or bone marrow donor, visit organdonor.gov.