Concerned about how it all works? Read some of our most commonly asked questions below.


Does a person’s ancestry matter?

Ancestry plays a big role in finding a matched bone marrow donor.

Patients are most likely to match someone of the same ethnicity. There are over 40  million donors on worldwide registries and approximately 25 million of those are of European descent.

However, we only have 6,000 Māori and 3,000 Pacific Island people on our registry.

NZBMDR is actively recruiting people of Māori and Pacific Island ancestry and other NZ ethnic minority groups.

How are donors selected?

The patient’s tissue type is compared with that of all donors on the Bone Marrow Registry. If you match a patient, you will be contacted by the NZ Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

Who has access to my personal details?

Your personal details are kept confidential. Your tissue type, age, sex and ethnicity, with an identifying code are entered onto the NZ Bone Marrow Donor Registry. Only your personal identifying code and appropriate genetic information are released to other affiliated international bone marrow donor registries for the purposes of bone marrow matching. If you agree to donate, only appropriate medical details will be passed onto the transplant team involved. Your personal details will not be divulged to anyone outside the registry without your consent.

What are the chances I’ll be asked to donate my bone marrow?

Only 1 in 1000 donors are asked to donate their stem cells each year.

What happens if I am selected to be a donor?

If you match a patient, you will be contacted to confirm that you are healthy and still willing to donate your bone marrow. A blood sample will be taken to confirm the match. Before donating, an independent specialist will assess you medically, explain the process thoroughly and answer any questions that you may have. Your health and well-being before and after donation are equally important.

The NZ Bone Marrow Donor Registry will not normally contact you unless you are identified as a potential match for a patient.

Where do you donate bone marrow?

In NZ, the collection of bone marrow is performed in Auckland and Christchurch. Transport and accommodation are provided for you and a support person if required.

Is there any cost to me if I’m selected as a donor?

There will be no cost involved other than your time if you are selected as a donor. The NZ Bone Marrow Donor Registry will cover expenses related to the stem cell donation (including medical costs, transport and accommodation).

Can I be tested only for someone I know?

Only very close relatives to a patient will be tested. While you may be motivated to join because of someone close to you, it is important to realise that each year many patients are in need of a stem cell transplant. By joining the NZ Bone Marrow Donor Registry, you may be selected to help any patient in need, anywhere in the world.

May I contact the patient who receives my cells?

Donors and recipients do not meet, although you may receive progress reports on your patient.

Can I change my mind?

There are many reasons why you may need to decline at the time of the donation request, such as poor health, family or work commitments or if you simply have reservations about doing it.

Once the patient starts chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy to destroy their marrow cells it will be vital that they receive healthy bone marrow at that agreed point of time.

Can I donate bone marrow more than once?

If you have donated bone marrow in the past and are found to match another patient needing a transplant (e.g. a family member) you can donate your bone marrow cells again. Very occasionally you may be asked to donate on a second occasion for the same patient if the first transplant did not engraft, or if the patient relapses.

What if I’m already a blood donor or a plasma donor?

Great! Ask about joining the NZ Bone Marrow Donor Registry the next time you give blood or plasma. To join, you must meet the NZ Bone Marrow Donor Registry criteria.

What if I used to give blood but haven’t donated in a long time?

You still have to meet New Zealand Blood Service requirements to donate blood in order to join the NZ Bone Marrow Donor Registry. Click here to visit the NZ Blood Service website to see if you meet the criteria for blood donation.

What if I’m a platelet donor?

You may have been tissue typed in the past when you became a platelet donor. If so, ask  a nurse about joining the NZ Bone Marrow Donor Registry the next time you give platelets.

What if I’ve already been tissue typed for a family member in the past?

You may have been tissue typed in the past for a family member. If you wish to volunteer to donate your bone marrow for an unrelated patient, you can do so by contacting us here.

What if I belong to a registry overseas?

You may have been tissue-typed in the past when you joined a registry in another country. If you are now a resident in NZ you can update your details and register with the NZ Bone Marrow Donor Registry by completing the online form today. If you’re unsure whether you are already on the NZ Registry, please contact us.