Blood

Selling Blood Plasma Is Not Unethical

What's immoral is telling people they can't get paid for it.

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PlasmaDonationLightpoetDreamstime
Lightpoet/Dreamstime

Several Canadian provinces are currently considering proposals to ban payments for blood plasma. Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta have already adopted such bans.

It's a bad idea. Canadian patients need more plasma, and such bans will only get in the way.

Blood plasma is a pale yellow fluid of whole blood that includes water and its medically valuable dissolved constituents, including albumin, clotting factors, and immune globulins. A company called Canadian Plasma Resources wants to open commercial plasma centers, where it would pay sellers between $25 and $50 per session. Obtaining plasma takes considerably longer than regular blood donations—between an hour and 90 minutes more—and paying for it makes people more likely to offer it. (It is not illegal in the U.S. to pay for whole blood, but it must be labeled as such and hospitals generally choose not to use products that are labeled from a paid donor for liability reasons. Let us set aside why that is the case for another time.)

In an op-ed in The Toronto Star, Canadian Doctors for Medicare chief Danyaal Raza claims that "Paying Canadians for plasma donations carries too many risks and should be stopped." Similarly, the nonprofit Canadian Blood Services (CBS), which is in charge of obtaining and distributing fresh blood donations, is against commercial plasma collection.

Yet CBS issued a statement two years ago that acknowledged two important facts:

  • Drugs made from plasma donated by paid donors are just as safe as those made from plasma from volunteer donors.

  • Access to the commercial paid plasma market is essential in ensuring enough supply so that Canadian patients continue to receive the lifesaving therapies they need.

CBS also noted that unpaid Canadian plasma donations are not enough to supply Canadian patients with vital plasma protein products such as immune globulins. "We only collect enough plasma to meet about 25 per cent of the demand for immune globulins," the group notes. "The remaining plasma needed to make these drugs comes from paid donors in the United States. It is safe and is acceptable to patient groups who use these products and recognize this practice ensures security of supply."

Given this shortage, why are some Canadian ethicists, physicians, and legislators opposed to paying for plasma from sellers? Many of them argue that the folks who sell plasma are more likely to be poor and to harbor diseases that could taint plasma supplies. Earlier this month a group of ethicists and economists organized by the Georgetown philosopher Peter Jaworski countered these arguments in an open letter that concluded these concerns are unwarranted.

The Jaworski letter begins by pointing out that "Canada is almost entirely dependent on the United States for its supply of plasma-derived medicinal products, like immune globulin, albumin, and clotting factor." (More than 90 percent of the world's plasma comes from the U.S.)

"The fact that we're buying plasma products from south of the border rather undermines our rationale for not paying donors here, because it suggests we don't actually believe that payment is unsafe, commodifying, or exploitative, and shows just how badly these products are needed," says Vida Panitch, an ethicist at Carleton University and a signatory to the letter.

Other opponents of plasma sales argue that they exploit low-income sellers. The open letter notes that plasmapheresis—the process in which the liquid part of the blood is separated from the blood cells—is non-invasive, and that the level of compensation is not so high as to unduly induce someone to sell. They further observe that there is no evidence that compensation to sellers of blood plasma donations has "promoted the view that donors or their blood plasma are regarded as mere commodities."

The group also rebuts the worry that paying people for plasma will necessarily reduce the incentives for altruistic donations. Over 600 paid plasma collection centers operate in the U.S., yet the country has an approximately 50 percent higher rate of voluntary, unpaid blood donations than Canada does.

Finally, the signatories argue that banning compensation for plasma is itself unethical because it is likely to harm patients by reducing the supply of vital medicines. They correctly conclude that "none of the moral objections to the compensatory model are persuasive." If anything, they think there's a "strong moral presumption" against any law that would reduce the supply of plasma-derived medical products.

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  1. That donor tho. Would.

    1. She’s looking right at YOU too.

      As your wingman….go for it!

      1. Ha! Joke’s on you. She’s looking at that bag of plasma. She’s a reverse vampire!

    2. Not *just* because she’s hot but because she’s STD-free enough to donate plasma too!

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    4. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

      This is what I do… http://www.startonlinejob.com

  2. Similarly, the nonprofit Canadian Blood Services (CBS), which is in charge of obtaining and distributing fresh blood donations, is against commercial plasma collection.

    I’ll bet “non-profit” doesn’t mean everybody who works for CBS is a volunteer, I’ll bet plenty of them routinely accept paychecks.

    1. Yes, that is generally true of employees of nonprofits.

    2. Everyone gets paid except the human cattle who produce the product everyone else makes money on

  3. I keep my blood in my freezer after the blood bank rates went up.

    I would keep it in my bathtub but didn’t want the jokes about it being a bloodbath.

    1. Hah! Shows what you know. Blood would last longer in the bathtub and plasma would last longer in the freezer. What. a. dope!

      1. Are you saying LovCon is engaging in blood doping?

  4. Lefties just don’t like money. They think it’s icky. Their utopia won’t come about until all money is eliminated and everything is provided “free” by the government.

    1. Lefties just don’t like money. They think it’s icky.

      Why are they so obsessed with it then?

  5. If money changed hands, someone got trafficked.

  6. Several Canadian provinces are currently considering proposals to ban payments for blood plasma. Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta have already adopted such bans.

    Homeless hardest hit.

  7. The Jaworski letter begins by pointing out that “Canada is almost entirely dependent on the United States for its supply of plasma-derived medicinal products, like immune globulin, albumin, and clotting factor.” (More than 90 percent of the world’s plasma comes from the U.S.)

    More evidence I’m paying for Canadian “Free” Healthcare. I won’t stand for it another minute!

  8. “The fact that we’re buying plasma products from south of the border rather undermines our rationale for not paying donors here, because it suggests we don’t actually believe that payment is unsafe, commodifying, or exploitative, and shows just how badly these products are needed,”

    “Relax, the wheat purchases are only a temporary measure until we’ve achieved World Socialism.”

    1. You know who else is worried about products and people from south of the border?

      1. Feminists?

  9. Other opponents of plasma sales argue that they exploit low-income sellers

    Just like every other voluntary interaction the poors are allowed to enter into based on their own estimation of the costs and benefits to their interests.

    1. Yeah, especially in a country where people can get access to buttloads of ‘free’ healthcare, I’m confused as to how simply using the phrase ‘exploit low-income sellers’ isn’t itself exploiting them or how preventing them from selling isn’t keeping them low-income. It’s like an oxymoron wrapped in a conundrum kept alive by government-run healthcare.

      1. *head explodes*

  10. “Several Canadian provinces are currently considering proposals to ban payments for blood plasma. Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta have already adopted such bans.”

    So the US will be selling plasma to CD in the near future?

    1. Sounds like it’s time to purchase some stock…

      1. Go long plasma!

      2. I work for one of the big US plasma companies. Had I been participating in the company stock program instead of investing in my 401k for the last decade, I’d be able to retire now.

  11. Sounds good. Let folks donate or sell blood/plasma as long as it’s done safely. In America and Canada.

    Some problems can happen before we try to prevent them.

    And while we’re at it, let me donate too. I haven’t donated in over ten years, but if the FDA’s ban on gay blood? was rescinded, I’d donate tomorrow?.
    ________
    ?Yes, I’m aware of the current nuances. It’s still effectively a ban.
    ?I’m still as boring and healthy as I was a decade ago.

    1. Yes, I’m aware of the current nuances. It’s still effectively a ban.

      Either you aren’t (or only selectively) or you don’t care. Otherwise, you wouldn’t use the term ‘gay blood’ and say things like ‘donate or sell’ ‘blood/plasma’ and ‘as long as it’s done safely’.

      If the “FDA’s ban on gay blood” was rescinded tomorrow, there would be a public accommodation the next day insisting that homosexuals be given equal pay for equal blood despite the fact that hetero blood donors aren’t generally or exactly paid in this country to begin with.

      1. Treat me like an idiot (I kid! You already do).

        What’s wrong with what I said?

        Is it the part where I gave my agreement to the Libertarian position that folks should be able to sell and donate blood/plasma? Is it the part where I spoke out against harmful government regulation that damages our country’s ability to react to disasters?

        C’mon. What’s wrong with what I said?

        1. It’s weird but true that on average ‘gay blood’ contains more HIV than the alternatives. It’s also true that as a heterosexual, I too am not allowed to give blood because of my sexual history (based upon geography no less) so I guess we’re in the same boat?

          1. So you’re just doubling down on “government regulation is better free market” here, huh?

            You guys chose really weird issues to forget your principles on.

          2. Would anyone want Tony’s blood though?

            1. Wait. What? Tony has blood?
              I was sure he was the bot of a computer science PhD candidate.

    2. Keep in mind though that it’s not just the FDA’s regulation. Even though the FDA is evolving on the issue, most countries around the world still have outright bans – and even though the plasma is collected in the US, the final product is often manufactured and sold overseas, where foreign governments would prohibit its sale. This is headed towards an interesting confrontation here in the US. Once the ban is lifted, there will be a bevy of lawsuits that seek to require blood/plasma companies to accept donations from previously prohibited demographics – donations that those companies will be unable to sell outside the US. When that happens, watch Canada legalize paid donations really quickly.

      1. Once the US courts declare the inevitable “right to force someone to buy your plasma”, pushing other countries to legalize paid donations, won’t that hammer US plasma companies?

  12. Canadian patients need more plasma

    [obligatory joke about tapping a maple trees]

  13. Other opponents of plasma sales argue that they exploit low-income sellers.

    So let’s ignore them and leave them with yet another way of not earning money by not paying them.
    Payday vendors exploit the poor, so let’s take away yet another way of borrowing so we can save the poor from themselves.
    Low wages exploit the poor, so let’s raise the minimum wage so high that they can’t find a job and can’t be exploited.

    1. Don’t forget making it illegal for them to use “substandard” housing or to buy and sell without expensive licensing and training.

      1. And no sex with strangers except pro bono.

        1. I think you misspelled ‘pro boner’.

          1. ^marginalizing the lived experience of lesbian/bisexual poors

  14. Don’t worry, receiving plasma is a right and the Government is duly empowered to come and take your plasma to distribute to others on your behalf.

    /Probably what will eventually be decided.

  15. It’s my body, my choice to sell plasma

    1. Wrong on both counts.
      Welcome to the revolution.

  16. “Several Canadian provinces are currently considering proposals to ban payments for blood plasma. Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta have already adopted such bans.”

    No no no
    You can sell plasma if you’re part of the medical mafia

    If you’re not, you can’t.

    The human cattle are not allowed to sell plasma. Their ranchers can.

  17. It does exploit low-income sellers. But, us poor folks would much rather be able to sell our plasma and be exploited. On average, people who “donate” (that’s what the companies call it) earn about $35 per donation. The companies who collect the plasma sell it for about $1,000. Plasma centers are usually in ghetto areas. If they didn’t pay, very few people would donate. The plasma place that I go to is very dirty, smelly, and when I leave I get the sense that I’ve just caught “the monster.” The lines to have your vitals taken before donating take over an hour if it’s towards the end of the month. And then you get to go stand in another line for an hour before you get “stuck.” There’s no way that people would go through all of that for free.

  18. I think the organ and other markets should be profit based. The super rich are going to find ways to get the kidney or heart they want anyway in the black market. So why not open it up and let poor people benefit without fear of some backalley peddler performing a risky operation on them? Plus the supply will be so high with such a pay for organ market that there will still be decent organs available for the poor to get at a government subsidized rate. And such a system wont even preclude voluntary donations.

  19. Should this right be unlimited or should it apply to anything you can live without
    Plasma
    Eggs
    Skin
    Kidney
    Lung
    Partial liver
    Length of intestine
    Fetus
    Now, i don’t think these are all the same, and you could say yes to some and no to others, but the “its my body” principle would lead to yes to all of them. Is that what the author is recommending?

    1. You will need to be willing to donate a lot more than those if you wish to compete in the Liber-Coliseum, so yes.

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