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Mass. Health System Apologizes For Bone Marrow Donor Flap

In case you missed it, as I did because of the holidays, the CEO of the UMass Memorial Health System has apologized for hiring good-looking women to pull in potential bone marrow donors for its registry.

In a letter to staff, top boss John O'Brien was pretty blunt:

[T]he use of professional models for marketing purposes here was not appropriate for an academic health care organization like ours, which holds itself to the highest standards. We have discontinued that practice. I am very sorry for this and apologize for our error in judgment.

The Boston Globe posted the letter, dated Dec. 28, here, if you're interested in the full text.

Attorneys general in Massachusetts and New Hampshire are looking into how the registry went about its work.  Beyond the recruiting techniques, there's a question about how much the lab tests cost. State laws those states and Rhode Island require insurers in to pay for the lab tests.

O'Brien defends the Caitlin Raymond International Registry, saying that it covered the cost of more than 30 percent of donor tests performed last year because they couldn't be billed to insurers.

The registry has temporarily halted its donor drives while the health system and "outside experts" investigate what happened.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Hensley edits stories about health, biomedical research and pharmaceuticals for NPR's Science desk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has led the desk's reporting on the development of vaccines against the coronavirus.