It seems the law is always behind science.
And, frankly, that's understandable given the incredible rate at which advances in science change our lives.
For example, it is unlawful under federal law to sell human kidneys, livers and bone marrow for transplant.
At the time the law was written it was based on sound reasoning. Kidneys, livers and other whole organs do not regenerate. Beyond that, the surgical procedure for removing organs is serious and risky. Bone marrow was included because the extraction was done through a painful procedure in which a needle is inserted into the bone.
If it was legal to sell body parts those who were desperate for money would be putting their lives at risk. Even worse, nefarious people could do horrible things to people to profit from harvesting their organs.
But science has caused a dramatic change in the way bone marrow is harvested. Today marrow stem cells can be obtained from a donor's bloodstream through a simple blood drawing, according to the Los Angeles Times. The new process, known as apheresis, filters out excess marrow stem cells that circulate in the bloodstream.
Last week, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ban on paying organ donors no longer applies to bone marrow because of the new medical technology. The three-judge panel unanimously ruled marrow cells taken from a donor's blood are blood parts rather than organ parts. And since blood donors can be legally compensated, so now can those who are donating blood that will be filtered for marrow cells.
"This is a fundamental change to how deadly blood diseases will be treated in the country," said Jeff Rowes, the lawyer who argued the case before the judges. "Compensation will expand the donor pool by at least hundreds and potentially thousands each year."
This ruling might be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but until then it will stand as the legal guide for bone marrow donations.
We see this as extremely good for the nation.
Each year more than 3,000 people die waiting for a suitable marrow donor. Allowing donations to be accepted should boost the number of people willing to go through the marrow donation procedure and therefore greatly increase the bone marrow registry. The odds of finding the right match for those waiting for transplants will increase dramatically.
The law, at least for now, has caught up to medical science in regard to bone marrow transplants.