The Corner

Sebelius Declares War on Bone-Marrow Donors

As if she already were not busy steering the flaming train wreck called ObamaCare, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius is aggravating the diseases of American patients, some 1,000 of whom could drop dead in 2014 thanks to her cruel interference. This is one of today’s most vivid cases of the federal government’s heartless, boneheaded, and potentially fatal high-handedness.

By midnight tonight, HHS will close the public-comment period on a “proposed rulemaking.” That’s Washingtonese for a new regulation coming down the pike. This one, however, goes far beyond the usual nitpicking and breathing down the necks of the American people.

This “Change to the Definition of ‘Human Organ’ Under Section 301 of the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984” would classify bone marrow as an organ. Unlike kidneys, lungs, and other organs that can be removed and transplanted, bone marrow grows back. This is not good enough for Obama, Sebelius, and their minions.

They want to stop any form of compensation to encourage people to give bone marrow. Some donors have been enticed to exchange some of these life-giving cells for scholarships, gifts, and other inducements. HHS sees this as trafficking in human tissue.

Yes, it is disturbing to think of a poor person selling a kidney in order to avoid mortgage foreclosure. Prohibiting such a market would spare people from facing such ghastly decisions. Regardless, one could have (and perhaps the nation should have) a hearty debate about the concept of self-ownership and whether it extends to selling vital pieces of one’s self. But bone marrow regenerates, and this ethical dilemma vanishes.

It also is far easier to extract bone marrow cells today than yesterday. The old method, called aspiration, involved shoving a huge needle into the pelvis and sucking out the marrow. Ouch!

Modern medicine has developed a procedure called apheresis. HHS’s own Federal Register filing describes this technique as “safer and less invasive than aspiration.” In short, a donor takes a drug for five days that causes the bone marrow to produce fresh hematopoietic cells. These migrate to peripheral blood vessels. The blood is then removed and pumped through a machine that collects the valuable new cells. Once those are gleaned, the balance of the blood is returned to the donor.

This procedure can take eight hours and involves risks — as do most things. The drug that stimulates production of hematopoietic stem cells can create a low platelet count and even rupture the spleen. However, donating kidneys, lungs, and other organs without compensation carries its own dangers. And, yet, HHS tolerates those risks.

On March 27, 2012, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that there was “no rational basis” to HHS’s ban on compensation for bone marrow donors. The plaintiffs in Flynn v. Holder wished to offer $3,000 scholarships, housing grants, and charitable gifts to marrow donors. As long as apheresis is used, the federal court decided, donors could be compensated, and HHS should mind its damn business.

Having lost in court, Sebelius and company are doing exactly what good Obamites do: Whatever the hell they want.

Thus, ignoring this appellate court ruling, HHS is using administrative diktat to prohibit rewards to bone marrow donors. Team Obama’s lawlessness now speeds into the intersection of life and death.

As my Fox News Channel colleague Peter Johnson passionately explained last week, some 14,000 Americans are on the national bone-marrow waiting list, and approximately 1,000 of them die annually waiting for transplants. Rather than make it easier for these patients to receive these cells, which can prevent death by leukemia and other diseases, HHS lusts to block the hospital door. And if people wind up in caskets, well, whatever.

“As a matter of morality and humanity and American first principles, let people decide how and when they can give up their own bone marrow to save lives,” Johnson said on Fox & Friends. “They should have the right to do with their bodies what they think they need to do, especially when it comes to saving a life, not taking a life.”

I support a woman’s right to control her body and exchange her bone marrow cells for a scholarship that will make her more educated or a housing grant that will keep her from becoming homeless. (And perhaps even stop a loved one from dying a preventable death.) Too bad Sebelius, Obama, and the others who demand a “woman’s right to choose” now work tirelessly to deny women (and men) this choice.

And don’t forget: Kathleen Sebelius is now the bureaucrat in charge of America’s spanking-new healthcare system.

God help us all.

Public comments are welcome on this regulation until 11:59 PM ET tonight. As HHS instructs:

You may submit comments, identified by Regulatory Information Number RIN 0906-AB02, by any of the following methods, but the first option is preferred:

‐ “Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

‐ “Agency Web site: Follow the instructions for submitting comments on the Agency Web site.

‐ “Email: Include RIN 0906-AB02 in the subject line of the message.

‐ “Fax: (301) 594-6095.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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