The Unspoken Taboo of Bone Marrow Donation
We really want to find out is the deeper implications of the Asian culture has on bone marrow donation...

Rejection is a concept not uncommon in the world of the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP), and we all know too well the myth the misconception surrounding the notion of donating bone marrow. But what we really want to find out is the deeper implications of the Asian culture has on bone marrow donation as it seemed that debunking the common myths and misconceptions does not root out the unwillingness to register oneself as a volunteer (potential) bone marrow donor.



The association between organs/ tissues donation and bone marrow donation is still prevalent in many Asian cultures and many assume that bone marrow donation can only be done after one has passed on. As death is still a highly taboo subject, especially among the Chinese[1], the subject of donation (organs and bone marrow) hardly comes up during daily conversations.


Furthermore, many Asians believein keeping the body ‘whole’ after death and for the Chinese, the body must be ‘whole to unite with the spirit one day’[2]. Hence, the concept of donation (organs and/ or bone marrow) is therefore still relatively new and frowned upon by many older generation Asians.


BMDP conducted a study recently to find out what are the chances our local patients have in finding a matching donor using the BMDP pool of registered potential bone marrow donors. Shockingly, none of our Chinese, Malay or Indian “patients” have a more than 50% chance to find a matching donor, with our Indian “patients” having only a 4% chance to find a matching donor!



This is appalling when compared to the Caucasians, where they have a general 75% chance[3] to find a matching donor, due to larger donor pool and Caucasians being more genetically homogeneous[4]. It is, therefore, a matter of statistics and chances – the more number of people who sign up to be on the BMDP register, the greater the chance of finding a matching donor. We need all your help!


If one of you reading this can pass forward the message to three other people, that donating bone marrow is simple and has no long-term side effects, and for them to pass it on to the another three, we can potentially grow our register exponentially. We all have the power to save lives!


[1] Building Asian Families and Communities in the 21st Century
[2] Asian Cultural Barriers Hurt Donor Chances
[3] Bone Marrow Statistics
[4] Clinical Challenges for Stem Cell Transplants: Selecting the Right Donor
PUBLISHED ON 07 June 2018
Registering to become a bone marrow donor means committing to be there when you get the call to give life. Each registrant provides hope for those waiting. A person could, however, be a match within a few months of registering, a year later or even seven years later.
How to register?