In the context of the National Organ Transplant Act, Congress made a distinction between body material that is compensable and body material that is not. The distinction has a rational basis, so the prohibition on compensation for bone marrow donations by the aspiration method does not violate the Equal Protection Clause.
Plaintiffs, parents, a patient, a physician, and a nonprofit corporation, sued defendant Attorney General of the United States, alleging that a criminal statute prohibiting compensation for "bone marrow" donations violated the Equal Protection Clause. Plaintiffs argued that there was no rational basis for allowing compensation for blood, sperm, and egg donations, while disallowing compensation for bone marrow donations, because bone marrow donations could now be accomplished through apheresis without removing marrow. The district court dismissed the complaint. On appeal, the appellate court vacated the judgment and remanded the case for such additional proceedings.
Did the criminal statute barring payment to bone marrow donors violate the Equal Protection Clause?
The appellate court determined that, to the extent that plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the compensation ban on bone marrow donation by the old aspiration method, the challenge failed; the prohibition on compensation for bone marrow donations by the aspiration method did not violate the Equal Protection Clause. However, the National Organ Transplant Act did not prohibit compensation for "bone marrow donations" by the peripheral blood stem cell apheresis method, because "bone marrow" meant the soft, fatty substance in bone cavities, as opposed to blood, and the statute did not prohibit compensation for donations of blood and the substances in it, which included peripheral blood stem cells.