Why are there age limits for registry members?

Posted May 6th, 2011 by Be The Match and filed in Donor Stories
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Many Be The Match Registry® members ask why our guidelines include age limits for joining the registry. People need to be age 18 to 60 to join. Once on the registry, members remain eligible to donate marrow or peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) until their 61st birthday. Many people outside this age range very much want to help patients by donating marrow; however, the guidelines are in place to protect donors and provide the best treatment for patients.

Why does a person have to be 18 to join or donate?

An individual must be 18 to donate because donation is a medical procedure (for PBSC donation) or a surgical procedure (for marrow donation) and the person undergoing the procedure must legally be able to give informed consent. A guardian or parent cannot sign a release or give consent for someone under age 18, because unrelated marrow donation is a voluntary procedure and is not directly beneficial or life-saving to the volunteer donor.

Why can’t a person over age 60 join or donate?

Be The Match Registry members are changed to an inactive status on the registry on their 61st birthday and are no longer available for patient searches.

There are two main reasons:

  • Donor safety: As one ages, the chances of a hidden medical problem that donation could bring out increases, placing older donors at increased risk of complications. Since there is no direct benefit to the donor when they donate, for safety reasons we have set age 60 as the upper limit. It is important to note that the age limit is not meant to discriminate in any way.
  • To provide the best treatment for the patient: Studies have shown that patients who receive donated cells from younger donors have a better chance for longterm survival.

Other ways to save lives

When you join the Be The Match Registry, you give patients hope for a future and you may have that amazing opportunity to potentially save a life.

There are also many other ways to help transplant patients. You can:

However you choose to be part of this effort to help save lives through marrow transplants, your contribution is valued and appreciated.

Update 5/17/2011: See the follow-up post from NMDP Medical Director Dr. Dennis Confer prompted by the discussion in comments below.

93 Responses to “Why are there age limits for registry members?”

  1. Mary Townsend says:

    What if a patient is near death and there is no other donor except for one over 60; Do you let them die without trying the older donor.

    • Susan Moss Thomas says:

      Absently excluding marrow donors age 60+ is WRONG. Evaluate ALL marrow or risk making donors like myself rethink entrusting our marrow to the caged thinking of Be The Match leadership. I suspect, as many failings of this world, the bottom line is the $$$ of testing a demographic that may not produce 100% probability. So, DO THE RIGHT THING or risk altering the American Proverb to read:
      “Don’t cut your marrow off to spite greed.”

      • admin says:

        From Be The Match: Thank you for your comments. We are reading every one, and appreciate hearing your thoughts and the passionate commitment you share to helping patients. Please watch for our follow-up post on this blog that will respond to the discussion points raised here.

      • Shi Breedlove says:

        Unfortunately there ARE costs involved in extensive screenings that at some point become unsupportable.

        The belief that as a country we have a bottomless money pit for health care is the main reason medicare is over run with costs and running out of money. I am an RN & I do see both sides of these debates.

        It sounds like many of you are bent out of shape because you feel age-discriminated against. Making petty comments and threatening to stop donating are unhelpful. Why not help spread the word instead so we have a bigger pool to choose from!

        • Shi Breedlove says:

          Also, it states clearly in the article that older marrow is not as effective for as long a time period as younger marrow.

    • oscar says:

      I’m 56 and yes is horrible to think that in five years somebody should die because I will be over sixty.
      That somebody i am waiting to save for over years will die because I can not donate. I believe that everyone should be evaluated and based on the findings then deny the donation.  

      • Corrie says:

        I agree. If the only matched donor is over 60, could it buy the patient a little more time until the perfect younger match becomes available? I am 61 and healthy, and would even give a kidney if I could, but will give up that search too. Wish I would’ve started this years ago. Death vs old donor? If it were my family member in need I’d take it!

  2. Charlotte Flick says:

    Since you don’t use marrow for those over 60- how do you know it doesn’t work? It is discrimination. When people don’t consider me as a donor (3 months from today) I don’t consider the organization eligible for donations of my cash either!

  3. Carlos R. Alvarez says:

    As a physician and a volunteer soon to be 60, I have seen a lot of patients older than 60 that could be excellent donors. Why not consider the possibility of evaluating the olders before just discarding them?

  4. Tana L. Foster says:

    I agree with Carlos R. Alvarez. I turned 60 in January so am “eligible” to donate for about 7 more months. I was matched with a young lady 7 years ago who is now 13. It was one of the most wonderful experinces of my life! I, too, feel it is discrimination.

  5. Pat Mankle says:

    I understand wanting to be on the registry indefinitely — especially if you have already been matched as a donor. I also understand the need for protecting the donors as well as the patients. My 60th birthday is 5 years away and I’ve never been called as a match in the 15+ years that I’ve been on the registry. With all of this in mind, my reaction to the age limit is not of discrimination but of disappointment that my eligibility is nearly running out without having had a chance to be of service and to possibly prevent a family from needing the services of the bereavement organization I belong to.

    • JoEllyn Prince says:

      Thank you Pat. I have been on the registry for 20+ years and was a match at one time but the transplant was called off without an explanation. I am turning 61 in two days and feel as Pat does, disappointment in not having been given the opportunity to give the gift of life, but I do not feel discriminated against. Those that have been waiting for a transplant have compromised health and only the best should be made available to them. But on the other hand, I, like Mariana Schaffer, am in terrific health, have been a runner, am a outdoors enthusiast and take no medications besides nutritional supplements. Maybe my marrow is as healthy as a younger persons, but again, maybe not.

  6. Robert Hubeli says:

    Pat Mankle, you took the words right out of my mouth. I too have been on the registry for 15+ but have never been matched. I will reach 60 in 4 years and will be disappointed if by then I am unable to donate. I am trying to be understanding of age conditions in place, but it is tough. And as Mary Townsend stated, what if you are over 60 and are the only match? Do you not give the person at least a little bit of a chance?

  7. John Brownlee says:

    I’m a 20+ year donor list member. Never been called upon to donate. I’ll turn 61 next April. I’d hate to miss out on an opportunity to help someone in need.

  8. Mariana Schaffer says:

    I have to agree with other comments that selecting 60 as the cut off age to help others is disappointing. I just turned 60 and at my annual physical, the doctor cannot believe what great shape I am in. I am a runner, cyclist, do weight training and swimming. My heart rate, blood pressure is excellent. I just had my bone scan and it came back normal. I do believe I, along with many other Baby Boomers, have done a lot more about staying in good health than previous generations. I know my parents never gave a thought to having a regular exercise program, eating right and taking care of themselves. I think the age limit needs a second look! BTW, I also donate blood regularly. It is a gift that I am in such good physical health and I am thankful every day. It is only right that I share a part of me to help others.

  9. Renee Stanley says:

    I agree with Pat Mankle and Robert Hubell. I have been on the registry for over fifteen years and was called once but was not a match. I will be 61 in October and am in excellent health. It seems such a waste not to continue with me on the registry. Why not consider evaluation of my health at the time if I happen to be a match?

  10. dianne delledera says:

    I was on the list for 12 years and I was found to be a match for someone. You must be evaluated and tested before being a donor, so it makes sense to me that each person be given the chance of that evaluation. I am 52, and I hope that at 60 I will still be able to donate. There are so many reasons I wouldn’t have been able to donate 10 years ago (like being pregnant) so it would be great if they would take each person individually, as they do, and evaluate. Maybe they will consider it!

  11. Esther Garcia O'Hare says:

    How discouraging to hear, especially knowing that minority donors are badly needed. I too am in very good health at age 55 and hate to think that I won’t be considered after age 61.

  12. Patty Becker says:

    I agree totally. If the donor is over 60 and a possible match, each donor should be evaluated because many 60+ people are in very good health. I will be 60 in about 3 years and I too have been on the registry for a long time and never been called upon to donate. I will be disappointed when I can no longer donate but I agree with the others, it is discriminating. By drawing the line at 60, you are discrimating against all people over 60 who wish to still be considered a possible donor to save someone’s life. It isn’t fair. Jusge each person as an individual, not as an age group. Some under 60 may not be a good donor and some over 60 would be a great donor. Give everyone a chance to help others.

  13. Eleanor Forman says:

    Is someone going to actually consider what these comments say? I would like to hear what their reply will be. Is there a chance that the “age 60” rule might be changed some time in the future? Letting people die doesn’t make much sense.

    • admin says:

      From Be The Match: Eleanor, we are reading every comment and do appreciate hearing your thoughts and the passionate commitment you share to helping patients. Please watch for our follow-up post on this blog that will respond to the discussion points you and others have raised here.

      • Debra Smith says:

        I am curious to know what health problems a 60+ year old person might have that would be brought out by donating. Are these problems somehow related to the donation or would they just be detected by whatever lab analysis is done on the donated biological material?

  14. Brenda Terrell says:

    My 63-year-old husband received a stem-cell transplant from his 64-year-old brother on April 20, 2011. At one of his recent reviews, his physician’s assistant said he’s making unusually fast progress. The single four-hour collection produced ample cells for two potential transplants, plus research and storage for future needs. The match was almost as good as twins according to one research nurse who looked at the match information. I’ll be 60 in August and have not been a match over the years since I joined the registry, but I know what finding a good match can mean. Maybe we shouldn’t make any blanket determinations about eligibility. While you mean no harm, your decision is discrimination.

    • Carol Arutunianc says:

      I was wondering is there an age limit on who receives as there is on who can donate? Is that why your husband had his brother donate?

  15. John Elliott says:

    I turned 60 two days ago, and like many of you who have weighed in on the question of donor age, I have never been called on to donate. I’m an aging athlete and my wife thinks I’m healthier and in better shape today than when I turned 50. But I also see some visible and “performance” effects of aging in myself.
    I suspect that this age cutoff is based on actuarial statistics derived from a large number of (donor) people representing the whole spectrum of life styles, family histories, and (good) luck. I also understand that the age limit is not meant to discriminate against us (boomer donors) as individuals, but rather to safeguard the recipients against unforeseen complications. And, with the exception of the situation Mary Townsend presents, I accept this as a necessary protocol for screening such a large group (of donors).
    Every one of you should be proud that you have stepped up to offer your body to save a life. That selfless act is the first, and perhaps the most critical, step in this life-saving program.

  16. William Balson says:

    I agree with all of these registered donors. I have been on for more than 10 yrs. I am 60 and will be 61 in Nov. I compete in the Senior games (long jump, javelin, 100m), climb cliffs, scuba dive, run for miles, and at 175lbs. I can lift 535lbs. on the leg press. I know hundreds of people younger than myself who are not nearly in as good health. You should at least say that after 60 each case will be judged individually.

  17. Louise Ritchie says:

    I’ll be 60 in July, and I’ve been on the registry for about 19 years, and have come close, but have never been able to donate. I would be willing to take the medical risk to help someone who’s younger than I am, and whose life I could save. I’ve had a good life, and would be happy to help someone else live.

  18. Peggy LaCoe says:

    Don’t all donors go through a physical evaluation before donating? Why not make the physical just a little more stringent for people over 60? The Red Cross allows blood & platelet donation over 60. I don’t know if the Red Cross has studies on how well the blood/platelets of older donors compares to younger donors when transfused. Do you have an age limit for marrow or PBSC recipients? Ask a patient & their family if they’re willing to take a chance on a donor over 60. Mary T. has a very good point, what if a patient’s only option is a donor 61+?
    I’ve been on the registry for 20+ years, called once but apparently didn’t match the full type. At least I have 8 more years.

  19. Darlene K says:

    I have been on the list since the late 80’s. Twice I came very close to being a match. I am a VERY healthy,active physically fit 59 yr.old. I am in BETTER shape than I was 10 yrs. ago. EACH donor should be taken into consideration regardless of age. With all of the testing that goes on prior to marrow harvesting, if a donor is not suitable for whatever reason,that will be the time of discovery. To cast us aside due to age IS discrimination. It’s also a WASTE of valuable resources. I see in the future a data base of 60+ potential donors.

  20. Dinah Jentgen says:

    Ten years ago we looked in vain for a match for my husband. Nine years ago he died of leukemia. I “age out” in August, and worry that another family will lose a loved one because no match could be found, while I could be a potential match were I still below the threshhold.

    I do hope you reconsider this “hard and fast” rule.

  21. Jan B says:

    Now that I am surprisingly a week away from turning 61, I think it is pretty ridiculous to have an arbitrary age restriction. I think it should be up to us and our health (which is great) to decide. Give me a scientifically proved reason that our marrow is not good, and it will all make more sense. I think 60 is the new 50 as far as how most of us feel. My husband and I have been on the list for over 13 years, but never called. I don’t think that a patient that will die without our marrow would appreciate this arbitrary limit. Show us the science!!!!

  22. Rhonda Lea Fries says:

    Perhaps everyone who is indignant should do a little research first. Doesn’t take much more than a quick google.

    Bottom line: best results for the *recipient* occur when the donor is under 30 years of age.

    I pulled this out of a PDF I found:

    “Once screened and considered eligible the most relevant donor factor that predicts success across several clinical endpoints is age. Bone marrow recipients from younger donors (i.e., less than 30 years of age) demonstrate improved five year overall and disease-free survival.”

    I found a study that said the following:

    “This finding raises the question of whether a young 10-allele-matched unrelated donor is superior to an older matched sibling donor in patients where the clinical situation permits a choice between such donors.”

    There are quite a few more studies and articles which seem to make it pretty clear that younger donors provide the best outcome for recipients. While I understand the burning desire to donate before we’re too old (I’m 53), it’s not about our feelings but about the recipient’s best chance of survival.

    • Jeff V. Pulver says:

      If what Ms. Fries said is true, then why is the age limit at 60 instead of 30?

      Since this is to help the patients,clearly,they are not being helped with donors over 30 years of age.

      Maybe the saying from the 60’s, “Don’t trust anyone over 30” was right in more ways than one.

    • Fabiola Byrne says:

      Rhonda, the key here is: when there are no matches that are younger than 60. If I needed bone marrow and there was but one 80-year old match, I’d rather have his/her than no chance at all. Heck, I’d prefer that to the marrow of someone who is not as healthy but is 59! This IS about the recipient’s best chance of survival. The over-60 population is large, and this restriction leaves out a huge pool of potential donors.

  23. Robert says:

    What about voluntary donations of bone marrow cells just before one’s registration expires? I understand the risks to the donor, but this would enable the donor to donate even years after the donor’s death, from the previously donated marrow cells. Kind of like a blood donation — immediately after donating blood I could get hit by a bus (forgive the violent example, but it sets up the parallel), and the blood bank could still use my blood. Why not a similar opportunity for those about to be removed from the list?

    • Nicole says:

      Just like blood, stem cells have a “shelf life”. My understanding, after my husband’s transplant last year, is that doctor’s prefer to transfuse cells that have been recently removed from the body. They do not like using frozen cells. There was mention of degradation to the cells. It has been a year, but that is what I recall.

  24. Kathy Betty says:

    I understand the age limit. Everything has an age limit. People who drive have to start taking physical driving tests at a certain age. Airline pilots have an upper age limit, and it is still 60 unless they changed it. I believe that if healthy the younger the donor the longer the recipient will live and the better they will do generally. This is just life. We need to accept that we are all getting older and especially when we are donating body parts or blood or bone marrow it will be better if the donor is younger.

    • Migel Valadez says:

      I agree completely. But as many feel they are very healthy still, I can sympathize how they feel because as I, signed up to help someone in a very dire state of help. Our number (match) has just not been needed. I have been on the list for several years and will turn 60 in July. So I guess I have another year to be on the donation list. I guess we can count our blessing that we are not on the other end and in need of a bone marrow. I am so glad to know there are so many wanting to help their fellow man.
      Migel in Oklahoma

  25. Ellen says:

    It seems that age is an arbitrary cut off point. There are many people in the 60s and 70s and older in wonderful health and many in their 30s, 40s and 50s in poor health. I think those over 60 should be evaluating individually taking into consideration their lifestyle, history, current medical test results and the like.

  26. Lisa says:

    My husband received a kidney transplant at the age of 63. His living donor was the same age, a friend from high school. It is a shame to just assume that the procedure is too high risk. I am sure that there is a rigorous screening process before the donation,as with a kidney donation. Lots of 61+ people are healthier than their younger friends/relatives.

  27. Carl Cushman Hybels says:

    I agree with the comments of great shape people feeling discriminated against when over 60. With todays activity-health level, xcllnt shape people up to about 70 should be eligible. -Though yes one of my uncles who is 80+ is in great shape…
    I’m 56 and it’d be wonderful if I become a match to help someone.
    Since it is very rare for someone to become a match for someone in need, it seems to me (and many others), that keeping over-60’s involved could well save lives, (and has, according to several respondents), when they, and not someone else, are the match.
    Thanks for being open to comments.

  28. Anne says:

    I have been on the list for about 24 years. I have never been called. I will be 61 in July of this year. I am very disappointed that I won’t have the opportunity to help someone. I agree that individuals should be evaluated on the basis of their health if they are over 60.

    Anne

  29. Tammy J. says:

    A previous post quoted a study:

    “This finding raises the question of whether a young 10-allele-matched unrelated donor is superior to an older matched sibling donor in patients where the clinical situation permits a choice between such donors.”

    I don’t see how it can hurt the donor to have more choices. If a donor and his/her doctor choose a younger person who isn’t as good a match over an older person who is a better match, then I understand that. But by removing willing over 60 donors, you are removing the option. And it is possible that the over 60 donor is the only match.

  30. Tammy J. says:

    OOPS –
    I don’t see how it can hurt the *patient* to have more choices.

  31. Mabel Adams says:

    So should we make a facebook page for everyone over 60 that still wants to be able to donate marrow? We all have cards with our HLA types on them, don’t we? Maybe someone desparate for a match could find one on FB. OK, I am only half kidding. It seems like a separate registry of those that have aged out could be maintained for patients with no other matches. Probably not cheap to maintain a registry and wouldn’t be good if it were full of outdated info or no means to contact the person like would probably happen on facebook eventually. But thought I’d throw it out there.
    I try to post the Be the Match link on FB fairly often in hopes of recruiting 10 young people to take my place in 7 years. By recruiting your young relatives, they may even match the same person you would have.

  32. William Curlew says:

    I donated whole blood for many years, and then went to exclusively donating via pheresis (sp) for over 15 years, and was bounced out of the program due to a false positive hep c test (this was 20+ years ago.) I have never had a blood test fail since that 1 damn test, but also was never able to re-enter the pheresis program as there is no ‘confiming’ test to prove you don’t have hepc (wierd)) I was so happy to find that I could still register as a marrow donor, and was called in once, but was not enough of a match. I am very proud to be in such a special group of individuals, and would like to say that I hope that the ‘inactive’ lists don’t get ‘purged’, especially with the aging trend of the population and the difficult finding younger donors.

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  33. Cristy Payne says:

    I am an RN and work on the Hematology/Oncology and BMT units. There are MANY times that a “last ditch effort” treatment is tried. I too believe that it is not right that there is an age limit to simply BE ON THE REGISTRY! Finding a match is against the odds, so why limit the odds even more? If there is a willing donor out there, let them be on the registry and if they are a match, let the family and medical team decide if the donor is appropriate on an INDIVIDUAL BASIS.

  34. Nicole says:

    Please consider one thing. Are any of us doctors that specialize in BMT’s? Do we see the day to day and long term results of these transplants? Have you done studies on transplant. I sure haven’t. I’ve only seen the transplant from the patient and donor view – it is rough for both. They want to give the best chance to the patient. The rules for a person donating to a family member are different than a random non-related person. For example, my brother-in-law would not be able to donate via this registry because of his weight but was approved to donate by my husband’s doctor. Ultimately, the registry has to look out for what is in the best interest of both the patient and the donor.

    We are all on the registry because we want to help others, to possibly be a match for someone else. Even if you can’t donate, you can still support the registry by helping with drives and encouraging family and friends to sign up. By getting the word out, we can increase the chances of patients finding a match…and isn’t that what matters most?

  35. Sally Kilgore says:

    I sure understand the let down of being registered for years and never having the opportunity of being matched and donating. BUT – I think by registering you “up” the chances that every person in need could find a donor and by registering you help raise the awareness. The more folks know, the more the word gets out – the more chances for life. Even if you’ve not had the opportunity to be a donor – you have helped by being a part. You’ve done another thing for the greater good – yeah!

  36. Joy says:

    Seems that what they really need is a graded process, whereby donors under 30 are used preferentially (this may already be the case) followed by older age brackets. I presume the success rate differences may have something to do with telomere length or some other measure of cellular aging, which has little to do with “being in good shape” or “a triathlete” or any other touchstone for “healthy old age.”

    I would also hope that research happens on ways to “rejuvenate” older cells, because it seems like it might be possible to create a lot more happy, healthy outcomes if donors over 30 were more effective donors, as well as donors over 60 being potential donors.

    Remember, the asthma exclusion used to be absolute until people challenged the guidelines–however, those challenges were based on science, not on the emotional desire of people to participate.

  37. Kim says:

    I am registered as a donor and have not yet been called. I would hope that each patient in need would get the best donation for THEM. To delete a donor based soley on age when there may not be another match seems thoughtless. If an ideal donor under 30 is available, great, use that donor. Increase the recipients chances. But if the only donor is 61+ give it a shot. I would hope that each case would be considered individually, not by one number.

  38. Lee says:

    The only reason that the registry doesn’t accept donors over 60 is the liability should something happen to the donor and the registry thinks they’ll get sued. How about having donors over 60 sign a waiver to prevent that from happening?

    As far as more screening for donors over 60, that would require more money to do the testing. It’s always the money, not the moral issues at hand.

    My wife and I have been on the list for 20 years and have never been called. We turn 60 in just two short years. Most healthy “older people” are now wiser and have more experience in taking care of themselves. With today’s technology, we are healthier at our age than our parents ever were!

    This is plain discrimination to a social group of people that want to help out someone in their time of need. And yet, bureaucratic tape prevents that from happening. And it’s a real shame that someone in Be the Match doesn’t read these replies. We are more than a file number.

  39. Julianne says:

    To those who claim age discrimination and do not wish to donate your time or money to the organization as a result, what motivated you to consider donating? If you are truly interested in helping others, please try to put your feelings aside and consider what is best for the recipient and his/her family. While difficult to accept, the National Registry and the medical community have determined that people over 60 are not ideal donors. Being ‘fit and 60’ or a ‘young 60 year old’ does not qualify one to donate, nor does being 30 automatically qualify one to donate. After 18 years on the donor list, I donated at age 38 to an unrelated recipient through PBSC donation. The donor evaluation process was EXTREMELY thorough and is intended to protect both the donor and the recipient. While my donation may have saved a life, 10 people I know registered the next week. Education, outreach and philanthropy does save lives. Get involved – don’t let age or a bruised ego get in the way of what is truly important.

  40. Elaine says:

    I like Joy’s idea of a graded process for choosing donors by age with younger donors being given preference. With all due respect, some of the comments here seem more emotionally based, with people feeling “insulted” or “discriminated against” about being excluded as donors after age 60. That said, why not use 60+ donors case-by-case. That donation from one 60+ person may be the only chance someone has to live, so why not keep that option open?

  41. Ro says:

    I wrote in recently with this question, as I will turn 61 in July. I’ve been on the registry since the late 80s, have been called once but did not progress beyond the blood draw. Of course it is disappointing, as I always figured this was the only way this non-scientist or medical person would ever be able to help save a life, but if the science is telling us the recipient does much better with younger marrow, I understand. We go on an inactive status, the article says, and are no longer available for a search. But note, we are still there. That suggest to me that if a means for rejuvenating our marrow can be found, then the registry would be able to reactivate us and inquire about our willingness to again be active. Sounds like best practice today is go inactive, but they are hedging their bets against some future discoveries.

    • admin says:

      From Be The Match: Ro, we often do get questions about the age limit. So yours was probably one which prompted this article. We are reading the comments here and appreciate the time you are all taking to participate. Please watch for our follow-up post on this blog that will respond to the discussion points raised here.

  42. John Kirsch says:

    I can’t believe what I’m reading here. So many people using language like discrimination, greed, arbitrary, insulted…etc. etc. That’s the baby boomers for you, I guess. Look, evil corporate America isn’t out to get you, and you are not put-upon. This is an organization that is trying to help as many people as possible, as effectively as possible. This is structured and directed by medical necessity and studies to achieve the highest success possible. Please, finally, divorce yourself from the focus on yourselves. Go help someone in some other way. It’s not about you. You are old and blessed to be so; go use your wisdom, not your anger.

    • Susan Moss Thomas says:

      John — I’m neither a Baby Boomer nor angry; I simply speak my mind as you do yours! Do you “get” that? If not, please read a blog/column I wrote titled “Life” at COYOTEMCCLOUD.COM under the tab “From Susan.” … And if you “get” that column message, I do believe the two of us are speaking from one mouth! I salute you for being a marrow donor. With love. S.

      • Gayle Martin says:

        Susan, I read your column “Life’ and want to tell you that you are a great writer. I did not know Coyote McCloud but he sounds like a beautiful person with many many friends. My husband had a bone marrow transplant 13 years ago and is doing great. His donor was in her mid-fifties at the time. I will soon be aging out of being able to donate and save someone’s life. I understand that it would be preferable for someone to have a younger donor. Having been in the desperate situation of needing a transplant however, I believe that we certainly would have considered an older person as a donor if it was a perfect or good match. I think the registry needs to reconsider age limits when there are no other options for the patient. Good luck on publishing your book.

        • Susan Moss Thomas says:

          Gayle — Thank you so much & the more I read these comments, the more I “get” how tremendously dedicated every single person is and how wonderfully mind-expanding the conversation has become … I would have to look back to see if I even agreed with my own first comment!!!
          With love,
          Susan

  43. Lewis Chabot says:

    If it’s a life or death situation for the donee, how can your organization possibly justify not at least looking at the health of the potential donor – rather than relying on some arbitrary age requirement? Frankly, I’m wondering how I can justify supporting an organization with a policy like that.

    60 seems like an awfully young age to cut off the chance of saving someone’s life. I hope the powers that be take PROMPT action to change the policy.

  44. Deborah Schlagheck says:

    I also will be 60 in 2 more years and have been on the list for 20 years and have never been called. Many of us over 60 are in better health than those in their 30’s. Also, many people my age have never used drugs, smoked or abused alcohol…can that be said for the younger generation and is this taken into account?

  45. Arlene says:

    When I signed up to be on the donor list, the age limit never even occurred to me. I have been on this list for at least 15+ years and have never been contacted as a donor. On my next birthday, I will be 60 years old and would definitely be willing to help save a life at any age. Of course, I would have to go through the normal health screening but I think 61 is too young to be off the limits to be a donor. People are living so much longer and living healthier lives for a longer period of time. I feel that the guidelines should be re-evaluated and consider more than cutting the age to just 61 years young!

  46. Stephanie Kersten says:

    I was honored to be a bone marrow donor 20 years ago or so and I would be honored to do it again. I will soon be 61 and I have been blessed with good health. In fact, I am healthier than most of my young friends and co-workers. In my opinion, health is not so much associated with age, but a blessing from God, combined with healthy living. I can understand the Registry’s concern with older donors, but the simple solution is in the health screening that is associated with being a donor. I absolutely know that when I donated, I was put through a health screening to ensure that I was healthy enough to donate. One has a screening to ascertain health and potential risk, combined with a doctor’s release from one’s primary care physician; with this in mind, what’s the problem? The purpose of the Registry is to enhance and/or save the life of another. What is the purpose if the prospective donor may be a healthy individual who happens to be over the age of 61?

  47. John says:

    Research shows younger donors are better. Health screening can’t substitute for youth. It is not a question of how many triathlons the potential donor has finished or how good the person’s last physical was. It is all about what is known as the senescence of the cells. As we age, our cells experience senescence. The telomeres in the cell’s cytoplasm become shorter. Telomeres and the telomerase enzyme protect cells. Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider, and Jack Szostak received the 2009 Nobel Prize for their work in showing how telomeres are so critically important in maintaining cellular health. As wonderful as robust physical health is beyond the age of 60, it doesn’t change the fact that the body’s cells have less protective, shorter telomeres. Exercise and diet can’t change this. Remember, we are discussing donation of cells. You may not feel the changes of aging, but your cells are aging. Policy should be determined by scientific evidence, not emotions and good intentions.

    • Maddy says:

      Yes- well put.

    • Lewis Chabot says:

      I don’t doubt that it’s true that younger donors are preferred. I don’t think anyone here really argued against that. But how is that relevant when the only match is with a donor over 60? A few folks here have asked for evidence that shows donors over 60 can’t safely save lives. As far as I can see, nobody has stepped up to the plate to even attempt to answer them. I don’t think that’s an emotional question. I think they should be given an honest and informed answer.

    • Greg says:

      Though I am familiar with the research you mention, Lewis Chabot’s point is relevant here.

      No one is saying that, if you have two acceptable matches, you shouldn’t take the younger.

      The issue is: what if you have but one match, but the donor is over 60? Which is the better course of action: to use the (slightly older) marrow, and give the patient a fighting chance for life, or (the NMDP’s current policy), decide that there is no match, and do nothing to help the cancer patient.

  48. Dwight says:

    As a practicing RN, I evaluate treatment options by evidence based practice. Could you provide me with the research that shows a greater risk vs benefit in using marrow from 60+ donors and/or a greater risk to the donor over 60?

    Considering the lack of donors and the lack of matches, you should investigate the risk with research.

    If it is a case of death or donation from a 60+ donor, let the patient decide.

    Finally – if your not going to consider me for donations after age 60, then In want all my personal data deleted from your system, not archived. Do not send me requests for funding or newsletters.

    I turn 60 in November.

  49. Heidi says:

    Wouldn’t it be better policy to leave those whom have already had money invested in the marrow typing on the list after age 60 but decline to take any new enrollments after that age. Personally if I or my family needed a transplant, I would much prefer a match with a 60+ year old than no match at all. The registry could “star” those entries that were over the arbitrary cut off and a patient and his/her doctor could evaluate whether pursuit of a such a match would be appropriate. In the event of multiple matches I understand why a 25-year-old may be preferable, but this policy does not take into consideration that the 60+ year old may be the only match.

  50. Deanna says:

    When my 11 year daughter needed a bone marrow transplant 18 years ago, all eligible family were tested & unfortunately, none were a match. The registry would not allow her 55 year old grandmother to be tested thru the resigtry because of her age (this was the cutoff age at that time). Even though she was told that the chance of her being a match for her granddaughter were extemely slim, she opted to spend the money to be tested on her own. Miraculously she was a perfect match for my daughter & both are doing wonderful today. I understand the reasoning of the registry to impose age restrictions to a point, but when dealing with cases of life or death situations, it seams rather senseless.

    • Rudolf L. Brutoco, MD says:

      Deanna’s wonderful success story of love & determination conquering cancer, is one of many that have occurred outside the National Marrow Donor Program, and beyond their guidelines. Deanna is correct that the age limit was once 55 years, and it took too many years for the NMDP to adjust it upwards (to 61). 61 is still an arbitrary cutoff. The basis for the current cutoff remains based on mostly speculation and “rumor” (like the vague & anonymous “info” cited above by some of the well-meaning writers), there is little published or validated data or science to support this particular cutoff. [If such data truly exists, let’s broadcast it and scrutinize it, like any other scientific finding]. Like patients, donors should be considered on an individual basis. Despite 6 million donors tested, patients still die unnecessarily every day due to problems locating a still-willing donor on a timely basis. This is truly tragic. Since administrative and financial limitations (understandably, to some degree) continue to be roadblocks to the program fulfilling its purpose, it is vitally important not to arbitrarily eliminate a significant pool of mature, motivated and healthy would-be-lifesavers. What a waste of goodness! — and of life energy! The current policy not only is denying some patients and their families a cure for cancer, it is also denying would-be-donors the opportunity to pass along life, and goodness. That’s a precious gift, and in my experience over the past 23 years, this precious hope-instilling and often life-saving gift from one caring person to a stranger in need, has often meant as much to the donor and their family as it does to the recipient’s family. And, in marrow or stem-cell donation the donor truly ‘gives’, but nothing is actually lost, and the end result is a huge gain for both donor and recipient. It’s a rare and wonderful chance for each of us to be part of a miracle. The NMDP means well, and there is no need for anger, but I understand the frustrations expressed here. There needs to be a higher sense of urgency and inclusiveness, so that such miracle-making is not unnecessarily or excessively limited based upon antiquated or unproven restrictions.

  51. Maddy says:

    While I am sure many over the age of 60 are very fit and healthy, their stem cells are “older” and less adaptable than those of younger donors. As we age our cells age and they have been exposed to more antigens. These factors increase risks for transplant patients and make older donors less desirable candidates. I do agree that if an older person is the only match that they be considered for the donation.

    Please don’t quit supporting marrow donation and research because you are put off by age limits- remain an active participant and voice your concerns. We all have a common goal to do some good.

    (My husband is a 5 year survivor – stem cell donation from unrelated registry donor.)

  52. Diane Turscak says:

    I have been on the “list” for many years. Got close once, but not close enough. I think you could satisfy all of us “older” doners, by creating two lists. Look at the younger list first and if there is no match, go to the “older” list, then leave it up to the patient to decide if they would like the “older match” or keep waiting for a possible match on the younger list. I’m healthy, exersize 5 days a week, and pushing 60. Can’t you keep us all happy?

  53. admin says:

    From Be The Match: Thank you for all of the comments. We are reading every one, and appreciate hearing your thoughts and the passionate commitment you share to helping patients. Please watch for our follow-up post on this blog that will respond to the discussion points raised here. And thank you for taking the time from your day to participate in the blog.

  54. Terry Shore says:

    I can’t believe most of what I’m reading here. While I don’t doubt the genuine desire of all of us to help someone,the majority of remarks would seem to indicate a lot of egotism as well. “Disappointed”, “discrimination”, “take me off your mailing list”, “delete my data”, “don’t contact me again….” Really folks? Your informed comments and heartfelt desire to be part of this wonderful program may indeed someday lead to a change in policy, but let’s leave out the vitriolic rhetoric. That doesn’t help anyone. As another respondent pointed out, “it’s not about us.”

  55. Mike Ledbetter says:

    Perhaps it would be a good idea for a secondary registry to be established where the names of donors who are over 60 years of age would be listed. That would at least make another pool of potential donors available in the event that the primary group (over 18 and under 60) does not produce an acceptable match.

  56. Rick Carter says:

    As far as I can tell, this cutoff point of 61 years old for bone marrow donations is completely arbitrary and therefore illegitimate. I can only hope that some other organization willing to screen potential donors over 61 years of age will step forward to fill the void that will potentially allow qualified people to continue giving until they finally croak. I am 60 years old this month, and you could perform this procedure on me several times a year without any potential detriment to my health. They really need to eliminate this arbitrary cutoff point for donating for everyone regardless of their health. I am horrified that they would sentence someone to death on the basis of this arbitrary cutoff point. – Rick Carter

  57. Amy V says:

    I, too, will be 60 in about 5 yrs. and I’ve been in the registry since 1997 when one of my son’s Kindergarten friends needed a donor. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a match but I would consider it a great honor to be called to duty, so to speak. If I’m healthy enough, my marrow should be healthy enough too. If I’m not, then so be it…but let’s not just put an arbitrary cut-off out there. I’m with Pat and Robert on this one. Seriously, what a bunch of bureaucratic nonsense. Consider individual cases…TO SAVE LIVES!

  58. Hal Issen says:

    To everyone over 60 who want to save lives – thank you very much. I will be joining you soon enough.

    I suggest you sign up for regular blood platelet donation. It isn’t as dramatic as a bone marrow transplant, but you can donate 26 times a year, and every time you donate, you know that your blood cells will be helping to save a life.

    It is a 2+ hour commitment each time, so that adds up to 4 hours a month. It is more of a slow, steady contribution to life than a single, big donation, but Mother Theresa demonstrated how slow and steady does wonderful thing. No, I am not comparing myself to Mother Theresa, but she is an inspiration.

    I urge you to channel your repressed desire to help save lives into blood platelet donations. To those already donating platelets, thank you very much.

  59. P J Such says:

    I want to be a part of the registry but I think the age 60 cutoff is not justified.

  60. Dennis Rowland says:

    If I should find myself in need of a transplant, you can be darn sure I welcome ANY donor, including those over 60. As long as the match is optimal, why would I care from what age group it came? I can see myself now, “don’t give me an over 60 donation, I’d rather die.”! To the Registry, isn’t it MY decision whether to accept a generous over 60 donor’s gift or die? Don’t forclose my options by eliminating the possibility of receiving such a gift, for denying the inclusion of the over 60 crowd, you are doing just that, abbreviating my existance by limiting my choices.

  61. Steve Wade says:

    Like most that have commented, I’ve been in the registry for several years, and have never been a match. I was called once for more thorough testing, but didn’t match. I was extremely disappointed as I had hoped I would be able to help someone in dire need. As I’m closing in on the age limit, I understand the thought process behind having a limit, but do want to remain eligible in the remote chance that I would “be the one” to match someone in need. I sincerely hope that some exception could be made if that was the case.

  62. Bill Wakeley says:

    “As one ages, the chances of a hidden medical problem that donation could bring out increases, placing older donors at increased risk of complications. Since there is no direct benefit to the donor when they donate, for safety reasons we have set age 60 as the upper limit.”

    No direct benefit to the donor? Based on Dr. Brutoco and other comments above, the benefit to the donor can be quite significant. Maybe there is not a direct *physical* benefit, but there are many benefits beyond the physical.

  63. Karen Robinson says:

    Last summer at the OLD AGE of 58, I was a kidney donor for my brother-in-law. Multiple family members and friends who were younger COLD NOT PASS the physical exam required to be an orgen donor. As a nurse, may I suggest you consider the donor the way medical professionals should – as a PERSON, NOT AN AGE!!! I can tell you that if I needed a donor, I don’t care if they are 90 years old if they are healthy, willing, and able to donate. Maybe you should just consider removing myself and all the other old people from you donor list so as to not clog up your system with names you don’t need or want.

  64. admin says:

    From Be The Match: Thank you again for all of the comments and discussion. Please see our blog post dated May 17, 2011, for further discussion on this topic from the NMDP Chief Medical Officer, Dennis Confer.

  65. Tony says:

    So this is news to me!

    I learned of the importance of bone marrow donations when my wife needed one in 2003. At that time, I joined and was hoping I could pay-it-forward and help someone someday! But with this ‘age descrimination’ news (as others call it), I think I’ll now take another look at what I can do (I too am approaching 60) and will now focus on getting younger parsons on the donor list! If that’s the best we seinor persons can do to help – so be it! It’s still a life-saving effort!

    Many THANKS to the MNDP!

  66. Darla says:

    I would like to see the actual study that says marrow received from people over sixty does not work as well.

  67. Greg says:

    Must be 18 to donate? Why?

    The article maintains that “the person undergoing the procedure must legally be able to give informed consent. A guardian or parent cannot sign a release or give consent for someone under age 18, because unrelated marrow donation is a voluntary procedure.”

    The prohibition would seem to stem from the idea that donation by minors must be forbidden, lest a parent forcing a minor to donate. What foolishness!

    What if a minor child wants to donate, and the parent also approves? That would solve the (alleged) problem of “voluntary participation,” and there should be no legal impediment to such participation. If it’s legal for a minor to get an abortion without their parents’ consent (sad but true), then it should be possible–at least in theory–to require the consent of the adult and their minor child.

    Come on, NMDP, get your lawyers to work on this!

  68. Carol says:

    My cousin received a transplant from an unrelated donor, and it gave him 12 years he wouldn’t otherwise have had. I came close to matching someone once, but not for my cousin.

    I shall look at the age limit as motivation to spread the word even more. The more people I can get to sign up before I age out in 11 years, the more impact I can have for more people. Join me!

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