Payments to Stem Cell Donors

Payments to Stem Cell donors

11-8-11

Several days ago I commented on arguments that have been advanced for paying people who are willing to donate hematopoietic stem cells, a practice which is presently prohibited by federal statute (http://ralstoncreekreview.com/2011/10/ethics-and-markets-stem-cells/).  I have more recently come across an article from the journal Blood published in January of this year (http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/content/117/1/21.abstract), stating the reasons why the World Marrow Donor Association continues to believe – as do I – that it is better that stem cell donors not be paid.  The abstract of the article is as follows:

“Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is a curative procedure for life-threatening hematologic diseases. Donation of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) from an unrelated donor, frequently residing in another country, may be the only option for 70% of those in need of unrelated hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. To maximize the opportunity to find the best available donor, individual donor registries collaborate internationally. To provide homogeneity of practice among registries, the World Marrow Donor Association (WMDA) sets standards against which registries are accredited and provides guidance and regulations about unrelated donor safety and care. A basic tenet of the donor registries is that unrelated HSC donation is an altruistic act; nonpayment of donors is entrenched in the WMDA standards and in international practice. In the United States, the prohibition against remuneration of donors has recently been challenged. Here, we describe the reasons that the WMDA continues to believe that HSC donors should not be paid because of ethical concerns raised by remuneration, potential to damage the public will to act altruistically, the potential for coercion and exploitation of donors, increased risk to patients, harm to local transplantation programs and international stem cell exchange, and the possibility of benefiting some patients while disadvantaging others.