Blood for money? We need more of an incentive to donate
In some countries it is common for organisations to pay for blood. Even in the United States, many plasma donors are still paid for their bodily fluids.
The trade is arguably a dark and subversive one, as centres are often located in poorer communities. Though this has moved on significantly over the past two decades, it is still common place for lower income individuals to provide plasma to pharmaceutical manufacturers to earn some extra cash.
Questions have been raised in the past as to how ethical this practice is: it is the redistribution of health? Is it commercialising what should be a charitable cause? In the case of the USA, amongst others, it may well be. Plasma is often supplied indirectly by the sometimes homeless, often unemployed, and usually poor, to the rich – or rather, whoever can afford insurance – and this is obviously socially awkward to say the least.
What’s more, paid provision – for both plasma and complete blood – around the world is often far riskier as when money is involved as there is a distinct element of unsafe practice.
Over here, things are different. An NHS Blood and Transplant spokesperson, said: “Blood donation in the UK is voluntary and non-remunerated. Blood donation works on the principles of kindness and mutual trust. Every time a person volunteers to give blood they complete a donor health check questionnaire which is designed to determine whether giving blood could harm the donor’s health, and whether they could be at an increased risk of infections which can be transmitted to patients through donated blood. The donor health check is a fundamental step in ensuring the safest possible blood for patients. This relies on donors supplying accurate and honest information.”
This is further backed up by the UK Blood Transfusion and Transplantation Services, which basically say blood donors should not be paid or given other overt rewards.
It is clear that in countries where people know they are going to be paid for their blood, they are not always honest when providing information; this holds a serious risk of contamination and misuse. But in the UK, surely regulation, personal checks and screening would ensure that paid or unpaid, only those who are eligible to donate would be able to do so. Perhaps it wouldn’t be shrouded in such uncertainty.
And thus prompts the question: should we consider such practice here to bolster stocks? The obvious and definitive answer is no; because, as an ‘AmericasBlood.org’ [sic] spokesman succinctly put it: “Time and testing has demonstrated over and over again that the safest blood comes from volunteer donors.”
However, with a constant need for blood donation, and an ever-present worry that younger generations are not following their predecessors, should a paid half-day off work for example – which is the case when donating sperm – be considered? (I don’t think there’s ever a short supply of that by the way.) For however controversial the idea may be, it would be a spurring incentive that would help with the constant appeal from NHS Blood and Transplant. The case has been argued before, specifically in Scotland by Rhoda Grant MSP. Of course those who want to donate for purely philanthropic reasons could maintain their practice, but perhaps those who would usually stay at home, give it a go. As for the affordability of such a move, work scheme incentives could be an option. And yes, it would cease to be a ‘donation’ if it was paid for.
The Olympics and Diamond Jubilee are now just beyond our current monsoon season, so the NHS has called for extra help. With 1.2 million tourists expected to visit this summer, the service has definitely not ignored contingency, saying that stocks need to be 30 per cent higher to account for the additional need. It has also said that varied stocks are important too, due to ranging blood types and needs in many different nationalities. With so many more people due to be in the UK, it is imperative that stock levels are adequate.
Only 4 per cent of eligible donors give blood in the UK, and the number of young people who donate was reported to be significantly lower last year. Maybe then, we should simply accept that people are just not actually all that willing. There is a constant battle to recruit new donors.
Sure, there is no doubt that paid blood provision is not the most popular way to go about things. In 1970, Richard M Titmuss published a book outlining the differences between blood donation in the UK and the USA, when there it was not just plasma that was paid for. He concluded that “the voluntary system was superior in efficiency, efficacy, quality, and safety,” and argued that “when blood becomes a commodity, its quality is corrupted.”
But those oppose direct payment, not so much the idea of ‘expenses.’ And even if it was directly paid for, medical procedure has moved on: it is safer; cleaner; and in the UK, the NHS (even with the reforms) is a far greater system to conduct such acquisition than in the US. Would blood really become a commodity? If the sale was transparent and regulated, perhaps the value of saving more lives would outweigh ethical concerns.
Outright ‘blood for money’ is irrefutably too far. We should not live in a society that has to pay for life; this idea would ring alarm bells in any moral human being. The ‘vampire’ musings would never stop. But we do have to be realistic, as most people just don’t seem to have the time or motivation to book an appointment.
With the number of people relying on British healthcare increasing massively over the summer, any number of campaigns, Facebook pages or posters might not make the target of an extra 30 per cent. So if people were given a paid half day off work for example, it’s more than likely that we would see a healthy rise in donations, and there wouldn’t be such a need for endless appeals. Society just needs more of an incentive to be nice.Tagged in: blood donation, blood for money, health, nhs, olympics
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