Ripped From the Headlines: IJ Case on Primetime TV

It’s not every day that a primetime TV show discusses federal circuit court precedent, much less precedents set by IJ, but Chicago Med recently did just that. In the episode “Saints” a hospital administrator stops a girl from receiving a bone marrow transplant citing his uneasiness with federal law after finding out the girl’s brother had been raising funds to send the bone marrow donor on vacation in gratitude for their help. The hospital’s lawyer feared the brother’s gesture would appear as compensation for an organ donor which is illegal under the National Organ Transplant Act.

When the patient’s nurse argues there might be a way that would allow for the bone marrow transplant to be used, the lawyer says:

“I’ve done my homework. In 2011 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that bone marrow donors can be compensated because the cells are blood parts, not organ parts.”(22:30-23:46)

That 2011 case the lawyer cites was litigated by IJ. Doreen Flynn was a single mom with three children diagnosed with Fanconi anemia whose sufferers often need a bone marrow transplant. There is a stubborn shortage of marrow donors, and Flynn wanted to ensure her children had every option available, even if a donor could not be guaranteed. Compensation for donors was one solution, but NOTA banned that option. Flynn and others joined with IJ to challenge the ban on bone marrow donor compensation and won in the Ninth Circuit in 2011.

In the episode, after the nurse decides to use the bone marrow regardless of the legal consequences, the lawyer informs her that:

“The hospital’s not going to take action against you, given the gravity of the situation. ‘U.S. prosecutes hospital administrator for saving girls life.’ I don’t think the Justice Dept. needs that kind of publicity.”(37:24-38:00)

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