Blood donor payments to be outlawed in Ontario

The Ontario government says it will introduce legislation that prohibits payments for blood or plasma donations in the province.
Health Canada says payment for blood donations is currently allowed in all provinces and territories with the exception of Quebec. (Canadian Press)

The Ontario government says it will introduce legislation that prohibits payments for blood or plasma donations in the province.

The issue of paying donors has been contentious ever since clinics began popping up last year — two in Toronto and one in Hamilton.

The federal government has said it will respect any provincial and territorial decisions related to compensation.

One of the key recommendations from the Krever inquiry, which issued its report in 1997 into the tainted blood scandal of the 1980s, was that "significant efforts be made to ensure that blood components and blood products used in Canada are made from the blood and plasma collected from unpaid donors." (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

So now Ontario will follow Quebec’s lead in passing legislation that forbids the sale of blood or plasma.

The Ontario ministry of health made its concerns known one year ago in an email to the federal government, saying the "shift toward a paid donor system needs to be carefully evaluated" and that there’s a need for public consultation.

The new legislation would prohibit payments to individuals for their blood and plasma, including reimbursement of expenses or other forms of compensation.

The health ministry says its position is consistent with the 1997 Krever Commission’s report, which recommended that blood donors should not be paid, except in rare circumstances.

The inquiry heard that between 1986 and 1990, more than 1,000 Canadians became infected with HIV and 28,600 with hepatitis C from blood and plasma. It also established that blood from U.S. prisoners was being sold to Canadian manufacturers of blood products in the 1980s.

The report criticized the Canadian Red Cross, as well as the federal and provincial governments for failing to protect the blood supply.

The Ontario clinics run by Canadian Plasma Resources want plasma for pharmaceutical products — not transfusions.

Those products are valued because they offer the following:

  • Albumin for treatment of burn patients.
  • Immunoglobulins (antibodies) to treat immune disorders and severe infections.
  • Clotting factors to treat bleeding disorders such as hemophilia.

Plasma is the portion of the blood that transports water and nutrients to all the cells in the body. It is composed of about 90 per cent salt water and 10 per cent protein and electrolytes.

“Paid plasma donations help save patient’s lives,” Canadian Plasma Resources CEO Dr. Barzin Bahardoust said in a statement. “Our proposal will help meet the increasing need for these products and create jobs right here in Ontario."

"Canada’s need for plasma significantly exceeds our ability to produce it," the company said, adding that Manitoba has allowed paid plasma donations "for 25 years without any negative impact on its voluntary donor system."

In March 2013, Canadian Blood Services CEO Graham Sher wrote an opinion piece in the Toronto Star, defending the need to pay for plasma, saying without products made using plasma from paid donors, "we would not be able to meet patients' needs."

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews said Canada is "self-sufficient" in both blood and plasma supplies and the province is not prepared to "take the risk of threatening the volunteer system."

Mike McCarthy, a hemophiliac who contracted hepatitis C in 1984 from tainted blood, told CBC News it's a "great relief" for those who lived through the scandal to know the province is being proactive on supporting the current system.

He said there is a culture in Canada of being wary of making the same mistakes again.

"I don’t believe we’re going in that direction," McCarthy, 53, said.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.