Brief Fact Summary. A suit was brought against Attorney General “Holder” (Government) (Defendant) by Flynn, parent of a sick child, other parents of sick children, a doctor and a medical school professor, an expert in the field of bone marrow transplantation, and a non-profit organization (Plaintiffs), claiming the ban on compensation for human organs in the National Organ Transplant Act was unconstitutional as applied to bone marrow transplants.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The compensation of bone marrow donors, conducted through newer, less invasive procedures, is not a violation of the National Organ Transplant Act.
It is sufficient that the government could have had a legitimate reason for acting as it did.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Is the compensation of bone marrow donors, conducted through newer, less invasive procedures, a violation of the National Organ Transplant Act?
Held. (Kleinfeld, J.)Â No.Â The compensation of bone marrow donors, conducted through newer, less invasive procedures, is not a violation of the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA).Â Under NOTA, it is a felony “to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human organ for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation.”Â And it defines the term “human organ” to include “bone marrow.”Â Therefore, the statute specifically prohibits compensating bone marrow donors.Â According to the Government (Defendant), Congress took the view that “human body parts should not be viewed as commodities,” and had several policy reasons for disallowing compensation to donors, which suffice to serve as a rational basis for the prohibition.Â The Defendant argues that since it is much harder to find a match for patients who need bone marrow transplants than for patients who need blood transfusions, it could trigger exploitive market forces if bone marrow could be bought.Â The Defendant also claims that peripheral blood stem cell apheresis is a greater health risk for the donor than a blood donation, because of the side effects of the medicine used to increase stem cell secretion.
Â To the extent that plaintiffs challenge whether the compensation ban on bone marrow donation by the old aspiration method is constitutional, the challenge must fail.Â It is not relevant that the legislative history indicates that Congress viewed certain types of regenerable tissue, such as blood, as falling outside the statutory definition of “human organ.”Â The statute does not say that compensation is permitted for organs or body parts that regenerate but is prohibited for those that do not, and it is not consistent with such a construction.Â The statute defines the liver “or any subpart thereof” as an organ for which compensation is prohibited.Â Surely the drafters knew that a partial resection of a liver can yield a donation that will save the recipient’s life, and that the donor’s liver will grow back.Â So the statute does not specifically prohibit compensation for at least one explicitly denoted “human organ” that will regenerate.
Â The Defendants argument focuses on compensation for “bone marrow donations” by the peripheral blood stem cell apheresis method.Â The court does not need to answer any constitutional question for this because the statute contains no prohibition.Â The donations of cells drawn from blood flowing through the veins may sometimes anachronistically be called “bone marrow donations,” but none of the soft, fatty marrow is donated, only cells found outside the marrow, outside the bones, flowing through the veins.Â Congress could not have had an intent to address the apheresis method when it passed the statute because the method did not exist at that time.Â The court must interpret the words of the statute to see what they imply about using this method for the extraction of hematopoietic stem cells.
Â Since payment for blood donations has been common for some time, the silence in NOTA regarding the compensation of blood donors is loud.Â The Defendant concedes that the statute does not prohibit the common practice of compensating blood donors.Â The Defendant claims that hematopoietic stem cells in the veins should be treated as “bone marrow” because “bone marrow” is a statutory organ, and the statute prohibits compensation for donation of an organ or “any subpart thereof.”Â The court rejects this argument.Â Every blood draw includes some hematopoietic stem cells.Â Once the stem cells are in the bloodstream, they are a “subpart” of the blood, not the bone marrow.Â The word “subpart” refers to the organ from which the material is taken, not the organ in which it was created.Â Reversed.
Discussion. This case raises a sad statistic, that bone marrow donors are available, but may not be motivated to donate.Â Instead, Plaintiffs suggested establishing a program, not unlike the payment for blood donations, to make bone marrow donations increase by offering compensation.Â The logic of NOTA to forbid payment for organs was not in dispute, but the application on bone marrow donations specifically through a newer and less invasive procedure was struck down by the court.