Independent Senator Pamela Wallin is introducing a bill to ban payments for blood donations across Canada.
If passed, her bill would prohibit companies from giving monetary payment, like cash or gift cards, to people in return for giving blood.
“The point of this bill is better safe than sorry,” Wallin said.
Currently, private clinics in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick pay for plasma donations. In Saskatoon, the clinic Canadian Plasma Resources paid out more than $400,000 in gift cards as compensation to donors in 2017. Donors receive between $20 and $80 per donation, depending on how many times they have visited the clinic.
Another clinic in Winnipeg also pays for donations, though Wallin said this was for the purpose of collecting rare blood types.
Donor compensation is already explicitly prohibited by law in Ontario, Alberta, B.C. and Quebec, just not at the federal level.
An expert panel on globulin product supply released a report last week which found that there have been no confirmed cases of disease transmitted through plasma-derived products in over two decades.
It also noted that there is “no compelling evidence” to suggest that allowing paid plasma donations has negatively impacted the amount of blood donated overall – a point Wallin disputes. Paid donations “undermine” the voluntary blood donation system, she said.
The expert panel said that private plasma donations are an option that could be examined further as a way to increase Canada’s domestic plasma supply.
Wallin points to the tainted blood scandal of the 1980s, where more than 1,000 Canadians contracted HIV through infected blood, as an example of what can go wrong. “Families were devastated, children were orphaned and men and women were widowed,” she said.
“We must remember the plea of the 1997 Krever Commission – to protect our blood supply by ensuring it remains a voluntary and not a cash-for-blood system.”
— With files from Wendy Winiewski, Global News