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NEWS: Harper government considers for-profit blood donation clinics

The Harper government is considering an application from Canadian Plasma Resources to open for-profit blood donation clinics in Toronto and Hamilton where donors would be paid $20 for being hooked up to a plasma collection machine.

The Canadian Press reports, “On its website, the company says it will ‘compensate’ people for blood plasma. ‘We have several options for you, including payment by direct deposit into your bank account, cheque, or prepaid Visa cards,’ it says. Plasma donations from high school students can also count towards their volunteer hours, it says.”

Dr. Danielle Martin, the chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, called on the federal government to deny approval to Canadian Plasma Resources. She says, “The critical issue here is opening up our blood services sector to for-profit companies who have an interest in providing a profit to their shareholders that at times could conflict with the imperative to maintain high quality health standards for Canadians.” She has also raised concerns about how the blood plasma would be used, including the company selling it to publicly-funded non-profit health institutions at a profit.

The CBC reports, “Provincial health ministers are concerned about the move and its impact on Canada’s voluntary blood products system.” The Toronto Star notes, “Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews has also urged the federal government to hold off on approval so there can be more public debate about such clinics.” And it’s been reported that, “The World Health Organization and the International Society of Blood Transfusion call for fully altruistic blood donation. Countries that allow payments include China, Iran, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and the U.S.” But Dr. Graham Sher, chief executive officer for Canadian Blood Services, has argued that a prohibition on paying donors is not an option when lives are at risk.

The CBC article says, “Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has asked her officials to take a closer look at the licensing application from Canadian Plasma Resources…” The Toronto Star article adds, “Earlier this week, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq bowed to public pressure and agreed to hold more public consultations before making a final decision…” And the Canadian Press notes, “Aglukkaq said Health Canada will consult before granting any approvals. …’While this application is under review, I’ve instructed Health Canada to seek the views of individuals and organizations who are interested in this issue.'”

Winnipeg-based Cangene Plasma has reportedly also been promoting ‘compensation’ for plasma donors on its website.

The Council of Canadians opposes for-profit blood donation clinics.