Shopping for Body Parts – Donations vs. Sales?

NBC’s Today Show featured a heart wrenching interview with Doreen Flynn about her three daughters who suffer from Fanconi’s Anemia, an incurable disease that requires a bone marrow transplant. After her first daughter was diagnosed and years passed without a donor match, Doreen and her then husband decided to conceive another child in order to provide a compatible donor. Sadly, twin girls were born with the same disorder. The older daughter did finally have a transplant last month, but the now single mother is desperately trying to change current Federal legislation in order to advertise and pay for additional donors for her very sick twins. It is currently against the law to pay bone marrow donors.

I watched with interest as the argument was made that volunteers can be paid to donate sperm, eggs and blood so why not bone marrow or other body parts? Apparently normal bone marrow regenerates every few months. It seems to me that sperm and eggs are a much more intimate piece of oneself to donate or sell. You may be contributing to the creation of another human being that will forever carry your DNA. Children of anonymous sperm donors now have extensive networks online searching for their biological fathers similar to searches by adopted children. Egg donors and buyers can negotiate through such sites as The World Egg Bank.

Tonight’s Rock Center with Brian Williams at 10:00 p.m. will include an in-depth segment on this story.  I think I remember reading that a teenager in China was paid to donate a kidney, without his parents’ knowledge, and used the money to buy an expensive iPod.  I think this is a very controversial and complicated issue and will definitely tune in this evening. Where do you draw the line? What’s the difference between selling sperm, eggs and blood for money vs. bone marrow, kidneys and other body parts?

For your information, I just learned that Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America, has been diagnosed with a rare blood disorder and will undergo a bone marrow transplant. She is very grateful that her sister is a perfect donor match.


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