The Ethics of Paid Plasma Donation: A Plea for Patient Centeredness

Albert Farrugia, J. Penrod, J.M. Bult

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    14 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Plasma protein therapies (PPTs) are a group of essential medicines extracted from human plasma through processes of industrial scale fractionation. They are used primarily to treat a number of rare, chronic disorders ensuing from inherited or acquired deficiencies of a number of physiologically essential proteins. These disorders include hemophilia A and B, different immunodeficiencies and alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency. In addition, acute blood loss, burns and sepsis are treated by PPTs. Hence, a population of vulnerable and very sick individuals is dependent on these products. In addition, the continued well-being of large sections of the community, including pregnant women and their children, travelers and workers exposed to infectious risk is also subject to the availability of these therapies. Their manufacture to adequate amounts requires large volumes of human plasma as the starting material of a complex purification process. Mainstream blood transfusion services run primarily by the not-for-profit sector have attempted to provide this plasma through the separation of blood donations, but have failed to provide sufficient amounts to meet the clinical demand. The collection of plasma from donors willing to commit to the process of plasmapheresis, which is not only time consuming but requires a long term, continuing commitment, generates much higher amounts of plasma and has been an activity historically separate from the blood transfusion sector and run by commercial companies. These companies now supply two-thirds of the growing global need for these therapies, while the mainstream government-run blood sector continues to supply a shrinking proportion. The private sector plasmapheresis activity which provides the bulk of treatment products has been compensating the donors in order to recognize the time and effort required. Recent activities have reignited the debate regarding the ethical and medical aspects of such compensation. In this work, we review the landscape; assess the contributions made by the compensated and non-compensated sectors and synthesize the outcomes on the relevant patient communities of perturbing the current paradigm of compensated plasma donation. We conclude that the current era of “Patient Centeredness” in health care demands the continuation and extension of paid plasma donation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)417-429
    JournalHEC Forum
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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