Altruism or Commercialism? Evaluating the Federal Ban on Compensation for Bone Marrow Donors – Note by Nicolette Young

From Volume 84, Number 5 (July 2011)

Voluntary, altruistic bone marrow donation is currently the only way for a patient to receive a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, bone marrow supply from altruism falls far short of demand, making our current system insufficient. Although scholars have proposed numerous avenues for change in the organ donation system, no change has occurred. One popular proposal is to remove the ban on compensation for organ donors, a proposition that implicates many ethical and moral concerns. These moral concerns include the commodification of the human body, the exploitation of poor and ethnic minority populations, and the general repugnance that some feel toward the idea of selling one’s body. If compensation for bone marrow donation were allowed, we may be able to overcome these moral and ethical concerns both conceptually and constitutionally. For example, the ethical dilemmas that surround bone marrow donation are somewhat abated by the rise of new technologies that have made bone marrow donation much less intrusive.