An interesting ethical and economic debate is playing out in Canada, where some provinces are banning — or seeking to ban — paid donations for blood plasma, as this piece at reason.com explores.
Given this shortage, why are some Canadian ethicists, physicians, and legislators opposed to paying for plasma from sellers? Many of them argue that the folks who sell plasma are more likely to be poor and to harbor diseases that could taint plasma supplies. Earlier this month a group of ethicists and economists organized by the Georgetown philosopher Peter Jaworski countered these arguments in an open letter that concluded these concerns are unwarranted.
The Jaworski letter begins by pointing out that “Canada is almost entirely dependent on the United States for its supply of plasma-derived medicinal products, like immune globulin, albumin, and clotting factor.” (More than 90 percent of the world’s plasma comes from the U.S.)
“The fact that we’re buying plasma products from south of the border rather undermines our rationale for not paying donors here, because it suggests we don’t actually believe that payment is unsafe, commodifying, or exploitative, and shows just how badly these products are needed,” says Vida Panitch, an ethicist at Carleton University and a signatory to the letter.