President's Commentary: Federal government must put an end to paid blood donations

Profit-driven corporations that buy blood are the health care equivalent to the parasites behind the payday loan industry, shamelessly preying on the most vulnerable. — James Clancy, NUPGE Natonal President

Ottawa (26 Jan. 2016) — Paying people to donate their blood or plasma is a ticking time bomb that will inevitably blow up, destroying large numbers of lives in the process.

That was one of the clearest conclusions of the Krever Inquiry into Canada’s tainted-blood fiasco. One of Krever’s strongest recommendations was to make sure that the profit motive would never again be allowed to wreak such havoc on our blood system.

For-profit corporations preying on vulnerable communities

Canada’s two largest provinces have done the right thing and followed that recommendation. Both Ontario and Quebec have now outlawed the dangerous practice of allowing profit-driven corporations to pay people to donate blood or plasma.

Why are paid donations so dangerous? It’s because people who’ve fallen through the cracks and who are not getting the support they need for their health or their housing have an incredibly strong incentive to lie about their health in order to get paid for their donations. It’s not that they’re more likely to have an infectious disease, it’s that they’re more likely to try to hide that disease.

Saskatchewan ignoring Krever recommendation to keep blood collection system uncontaminated by profit

The companies trying to profit from blood and plasma donations know this. They’re the health care equivalent to the parasites behind the payday loan industry, shamelessly preying on the most vulnerable. It was no coincidence that, before a paid blood donation company in Toronto was run out of town by sensible government regulation, it set up one clinic across the street from a homeless shelter and another beside a methadone clinic.

Unfortunately, other provincial governments are not taking steps to protect their blood and plasma supply from predatory businesses and infectious diseases. In Saskatchewan, for example, the Minister of Health, Dustin Duncan, is openly defying the Krever recommendation to ban paid donations. Duncan says he is perfectly willing to allow paid blood and plasma donations in his province.

New Health Accord must include a volunteer system of blood and plasma collection 

The federal government must step in, and now is the perfect time to do it.

Preliminary negotiations are now underway to build a new Health Accord that will ensure stable and long-term health funding to the provinces. And as with the original Health Accord, it gives the federal government a powerful opportunity to insist that certain standards of care and service be met in every province. A volunteer-based blood and plasma collection system should be one of those standards.

Of course, building and maintaining a volunteer-based system requires effort and investment. For it to work, the federal, provincial amd territorial governments will have to commit to ensuring that Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is appropriately managed and funded so that it can reopen facilities currently shuttered in smaller cities such as Thunder Bay and Saint John, extend clinic hours, and restore its network of mobile clinics.

A volunteer-based blood and plasma donation system is vital to our health, and also to our shared Canadian values of caring and sharing. We will not let a handful of profit-hungry business people, and the politicians who support them, sell out our health or our values.

In solidarity, 

James Clancy
NUPGE National President

More information: 

Video: Why we need to ban paid plasma donations

Sign the petition to ban paid blood and plasma donations


James Clancy is the National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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