Thursday May 12, 2016

The case for paying blood plasma donors in Canada: we already pay Americans

Blood plasma can be donated once a week.

Blood plasma can be donated once a week. (Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters)

Listen 8:28

A company that gives people $25 gift cards to donate blood plasma is now operating in Saskatoon

And Canadian Plasma Resources would like to expand further into Western Canada. 

But the company has sparked a controversy — a variety of advocacy groups, unions, and some survivors of the 1980s tainted blood scandal want laws prohibiting paying people to donate blood and plasma.

When Canadian Plasma Resources had opened donation centres in Toronto in 2012, the Ontario government banned compensating donors.

Now, opponents of the company now want Saskatchewan and British Columbia to do the same.

But not all patient and health advocacy groups are opposed to paid donations.

Craig Upshaw uses plasma products for his own hemophilia and sees irony in opposing paid donation of plasma in Canada, because Canadians don't donate enough plasma to make the products and therapies that patients need. 

In fact, most of the plasma for those products comes from donors in the United States, who are paid.

The world supply relies on paid donors from the U.S... why shouldn't Canadians contribute to the global supply? - Craig Upshaw, President, Canadian Hemophilia Society

To Upshaw, the President of the Canadian Hemophilia Society, while some people might think it's unethical to sell blood or plasma, it's also unethical to limit the amount of plasma collected.

If it wasn't for sale in the U.S, Canadians wouldn't have access to those life-saving products, and individuals would be suffering or potentially dying by not having access to it.  - Craig Upshaw, President, Canadian Hemophilia Society

While there is an organized effort to outlaw paid donations of plasma in Canada, Canada Blood Services says there is no difference in safety between plasma donated by volunteers or paid donors.

Click the play button above to listen to the full interview