If you want to make extra money, you might consider donating plasma, eggs, sperm, or other types of donations to pad your bank account. There is a significant demand for bone marrow, but is it possible to get paid for donating bone marrow?
While you can’t get paid directly for the procedure, you can get all your expenses paid when you donate. Plus, some employers will give you paid time off (PTO) to make a bone marrow donation.
There’s a growing outcry to legalize paying bone marrow donors. Maybe one day, you’ll be able to make money from donating bone marrow. For now, here’s how you can get paid to donate bone marrow for transplants, the donation process, and possible compensation.
What Does Be the Match Say About Getting Paid for Bone Marrow Donation?
The Be The Match registry handles the process when you make this type of donation. If you’ve never heard of this organization, Be the Match offers a registry service that matches patients and donors.
According to their website, you won’t receive compensation to donate. The exact wording is listed as follows:
“Donors never pay for donating, and are never paid to donate.”
Potential donors never have to pay a fee to donate with Be the Match, so if you’re worried about medical expenses, that’s one less concern.
The National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP) pays for all medical expenses associated with the bone marrow donation process. This is the company that runs the Be The Match Registry. If they don’t cover it, the patient’s medical insurance will.
Normal expenses typically include travel costs and other non-medical bills. The only expense to the donor is time they take off work if their employer does not compensate them.
It’s worth noting that when you donate through Be The Match and there are complications with the procedure, you have a donor life, disability, and medical insurance policy to help with the expenses.
Other Places that Might Pay You to Donate Your Bone Marrow
StemExpress Donor Centers pay donors using gift cards ranging from $25 to $1,000 for their time. If you are eligible, you can donate and earn money for the following procedures.
- Initial Donor Screening Appointment – $25
- Small Blood Donations – $50
- Large Blood Donations – $100
- Apheresis (White Blood Cell) Donation – $150
- Bone Marrow Donation – $250 to qualified donors
- Mobilized Apheresis Donation – Up to $1000 to qualified donors”
Research centers like Fred Hutch seem to pay for bone marrow donations, but details are unavailable online. The Seattle Times reported that they pay ($800 in one case) for peripheral blood stem cell donation, which is similar to bone marrow donation.
Bone Marrow Donor Requirements
To become a donor, you must be between 18 and 60 years old with no recent illnesses or pregnancy. In addition, you must not have any of the following situations apply to you:
- HIV or AIDS
- Rheumatoid, psoriatic, or other advanced arthritis
- An autoimmune disease affecting your entire body
- Have received xenotransplant (animal tissue transplant)
- Severely underweight or BMI higher than 40
- Lyme Disease
- Men who have sex with men
- Any other medical condition listed with Be the Match
Bone Marrow Donation Risks
As with any medical procedure, there are potential risks involved with donating bone marrow. Common complications include damage to the nerve, bone, or muscle in your hip region, potential issues with anesthesia, and general tiredness in the following days.
Approximately 2.4% of patients donating bone marrow experience complications.
Rest assured, you can access a donor life, disability, and medical insurance policy for any complications related to your donation.
Bone Marrow Donation Recovery
The bone marrow donation takes place in a hospital as an outpatient procedure. You’ll check in the morning of the procedure, and the nursing staff will monitor you until the anesthesia wears off. All hospitals use different equipment to extract the bone marrow, but most do not require stitches.
Potential donors don’t have to worry about a life-threatening procedure. They usually leave the outpatient facility later that afternoon or, at the very latest, the following day (assuming there aren’t any complications).
Full recovery should take about three weeks, and bone marrow donations don’t weaken your immune system. After donation, bone marrow fully replaces itself in four to six weeks.
You’ll be contacted by Be The Match regularly post-procedure to discuss how you’re feeling and if there are any side effects. The medical facility will also share common side effects with you.
How Many Times Can You Donate Bone Marrow?
This is a common question and doesn’t have a definitive answer. When you register to be a bone marrow donor, you’ll go on a donor registry. You may get a request to donate immediately, or it could be years before you receive a donation request.
Whether or not you get a request depends on geographical location, blood type, and other factors. Doctors will look for a matching donor with the same tissue type as the patient using a swab or blood test.
Specifically, doctors are looking for a match on their human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue type. These HLAs are proteins or markers on most of the cells in your body. Your immune system uses these markers to determine which cells belong and which don’t.
Doctors want to ensure you’re a close match with the patient’s HLA markers before bringing you into the transplant center. It’s important to note that you never know if an HLA match will be a family member or a stranger from a different ethnic background.
Is Bone Marrow Donation Painful?
According to the National Marrow Donor Program, the actual bone marrow donation procedure for transplants is not painful, nor does it remove bone. Some discomfort can result from bone marrow donation, but if you read personal accounts of bone marrow donation, there isn’t much pain other than the needle’s prick and a little soreness.
With medical advancements, it’s very similar to drawing blood. If you’ve ever gone for blood tests, it will feel more like that than a surgical procedure.
The procedure usually occurs in a hospital under general anesthesia, and you don’t feel a thing. During the donation process, you lay on your stomach while the doctors use hollow needles to withdraw the liquid marrow from both sides of your pelvic bone. The incisions usually don’t require any stitches.
We must address the pain myths about this procedure because many people don’t donate bone marrow due to the potential pain involved. Some back out due to fear. Because of this and the small percentage of matched people, you often hear stories of people who die before they can find a bone marrow donor.
Donating Bone Marrow vs. PBSC Donations
What’s the difference between bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donations? The Be the Match Registry explains in its FAQs that a bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure conducted under general anesthesia in a hospital. The doctor will use needles to withdraw liquid marrow.
A PBSC donation is a non-surgical procedure in an outpatient clinic. PBSC donors will have daily injections for five days of a specific drug known as filgrastim. This increases the number of blood-forming cells in the donor’s bloodstream. Then, the apheresis process allows the doctor to remove a donor’s blood through a needle in one arm. Next, the blood passes through a different machine that filters out the blood-forming cells.
The Future: Getting Paid for Bone Marrow Transplant Donation
To help combat the lack of donor enthusiasm, there’s an effort to allow people to receive compensation for donating to a marrow transplant. This effort has yet to result in change on the federal level.
What’s the hesitation in letting people make extra money from bone marrow? People at the National Marrow Donor Program suggest it would create a bad pool of donors, including those who lie about their health and behaviors.
Nevertheless, you should consider donating bone marrow with or without compensation. This is because bone marrow donations save lives when used to treat blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.
Plus, if you want to find a creative way to donate to charity, donating your bone marrow, blood plasma, and red blood cells is a great way to support the cause.
Other Ways to Donate Your “Body”
Here are other (legal) ways to make money with your body through donations.
Donating blood plasma is an easy way to earn up to $400 monthly for just a few hours of your time. You will undergo a physical exam to ensure you’re healthy and eligible to donate.
You can donate two times every seven days. While all donor centers have their own pay schedules and bonuses, you could earn up to $4,800 annually.
The process is easy and relatively painless. Donating takes 45 minutes to an hour, and you’ll be $50 to $75 richer.
Men with healthy swimmers can earn up to $1,500 monthly in extra side hustle income from donating sperm. You must be between 18 and 40, though 18 to 35 is ideal. Plus, you’ll have to pass a physical exam and provide a semen sample.
Once you get the all-clear to proceed, you need to donate at least once a week. Ideally, you’ll donate up to 10 times per month.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to abstain from sexual intercourse for two to three days before you give your sample since this increases fertility.
Donating Eggs for Money
Egg donation is one of the most lucrative ways to make money through medical procedures. According to the Center for Human Reproduction, the average egg donor earns $8,000 per successful egg retrieval. You can earn up to $14,000 in special cases where you qualify and produce more eggs.
Local NYC donors must be between 21 and 34 years old. The age requirements for women traveling to NYC from outside the metropolitan area are 21 to 29.
Since egg donation is a more invasive procedure requiring the administration of hormones and egg retrieval under IV sedation, it pays a hefty fee.
The Bottom Line
While you generally can’t get paid to donate bone marrow, you could score some PTO, depending on your boss. Hopefully, in the future, paid donations will be possible.
What do you think about bone marrow donation? Should you be able to make money on the procedure, similar to plasma donation? Leave your response in the comment section below.