The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said that a federal law prohibiting payment for donated organs did not apply to stem cells extracted from circulating blood.
“The statute does not prohibit compensation for donations of blood and the substances in it, which include peripheral blood stem cells,” Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.
The lawsuit was brought against the federal government by a coalition that included patients seeking bone marrow transplants and MoreMarrowDonors.org, a nonprofit group that wants to offer donors $3,000 in scholarships, housing allowances or gifts to charities.
“Every year, nearly 3,000 Americans die because they cannot find a matching bone marrow donor,” Jeff Rowes, a lawyer at the Institute for Justice, which represented the plaintiffs, said. “Today’s decision will put a stop to this irrational prohibition, and it could save thousands of lives in the process.”
The statement said compensation would now be permitted in the Western states covered by the Ninth Circuit.
The court did not address the plaintiffs’ contention that the ban on compensation was unconstitutional. And it did not allow for payments done by extracting cells from bone marrow.
The National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 counts bone marrow as an organ for which payment is prohibited but does not ban payments for blood, sperm or eggs.
Bone marrow was once taken from a donor’s hip, but today about two-thirds of patients receive marrow from stem cells taken from the bloodstream.