The problem with paying to procure plasma

Arm outstretched of someone who has just donated blood with quote: If you really want to lend a hand, lend an arm.

Until recently, I didn’t realize that we had a shortage of plasma in Canada. You may not have either, unless you too are obsessed with the health news. Someone’s gotta be.

Last year, a private plasma donation clinic opened in Saskatoon. The clinic pays every donor with a $25 gift card. By allowing this clinic to open, the Saskatchewan government has reduced donations to the non-paying Canadian Blood Services clinic in the region. If you could be paid for your plasma donation or do it out of the goodness of your heart, what would you do? Turns out a lot of people like to be paid for their efforts.

Although in the U.S., blood donors are paid, in Canada they are not. We Canadians have historically relied on the good will of donors, and, according to Canadian Blood Services, we will continue to do so.

Maybe this wouldn’t be a problem if the donations procured at the paying clinic were adding to Canada’s plasma supply, but there’s no assurance they are. This company is selling the plasma to the highest bidder, wherever that bidder is. The clinic is a for-profit venture; its first concern isn’t Canada’s plasma supply.

As it stands, Canada doesn’t have enough plasma to meet patients’ needs, so we buy plasma from the U.S. to make up the shortfall. But what if we continue to rely on foreign blood products and that supply dries up? I can envision American plasma being stopped at the border in the near future, under the new America First policies. That crazy new president south of the border rules with an iron fist, as he has proven too many times over the past few weeks.

Plasma donations are needed both for infusions–I’ve needed a few over the course of my illness–but also to make drugs for very sick people with rare diseases. We need to ensure we have enough of these drugs to keep these people alive, or at least to improve their quality of life.

So, Canadians, consider donating your plasma for free. It’s one needle prick*, except it takes a little longer than donating whole blood. The special machine will take your plasma only and kindly return all your other blood products to you. Easy peasy. And you’ll get all the benefits that whole-blood donors get and more.

What benefits, you ask? First off, after you donate, you can pop by the donor cafe, where a bevy of volunteers will eagerly meet your every need. Remember the soup and cookies? We also stock fruit cups and sesame snaps for the gluten free among you. There’s coffee and tea and pop and juice (go for the mango). Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

And don’t forget the coveted pins. When you reach certain donor milestones, you receive a commemorative pin. You plasma donors will reach those milestones all the faster because you can donate plasma much more frequently than whole blood if you choose.

And what about the good feeling that goes along with knowing you’re helping someone? That’s worth a lot more than a $25 gift card, I think.


*If a needle phobia is holding you back, come see me. I can help you with that.


8 thoughts on “The problem with paying to procure plasma

  1. Wow Annie! I had no idea and I AM consumed with health info. Very informative – thank you!
    Do you think that they would take my serum only even though I’m not allowed to donate. You know,. ..take out the good stuff and put the rest back in me??
    I agree with the other commenter about going to the paper. Something like Metro which is everywhere and provides a quick read.


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