May 04, 2016, By: Kat Lanteigne
The debate over whether Canada should privatize plasma collection has exploded into a national controversy again. I have been on the front lines of this fight for more than four years, and I can testify that the tainted-blood survivors and their families are devastated that Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR) has set up a private plasma clinic around the corner from pawnshops in Saskatoon, Sask.
The Ontario government banned paid plasma clinics in December 2014 when it passed the Voluntary Blood Donations Act (VBDA). The move was spurred by a public outcry after private blood brokers set up clinics beside a homeless shelter and a methadone clinic, with plans to collect and then sell Canadian plasma on the world market. Many organizations, unions and concerned citizens fought for the new law. I testified on behalf of hundreds of tainted-blood survivors and their families in support of the VBDA, sharing their concerns at Queen’s Park.
As the Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada (Krever Inquiry) recommended in 1997, the VBDA made it law that donors are not paid, blood is a public resource and the integrity of the system in Ontario is protected.
Canadian Blood Services (CBS) was born from the thousands of Canadian deaths caused by transfusions of blood tainted with hepatitis C and HIV in the late 1970s and ’ 80s. Most of those infections could have been prevented. CBS now manages the national supply of blood, blood products and stem cells, and related services for all provinces and territories, except Quebec. This public, not-for-profit blood system has been part of our social contract for almost 20 years.
People often misconstrue this debate as being about paid versus unpaid donors. This is really about a public versus a private system. Little attention has been paid to the implications of privatizing plasma collection in Canada. Should Canada allow a private, for-profit blood broker to collect our plasma and export it? Should we allow a life-saving resource to be controlled by CPR, a pharmaceutical company, for profit or should it belong to the Canadian public?
The World Health Organization set a target for all countries to obtain 100 per cent of their blood supplies from unpaid volunteer donors by 2020. We should be working toward that goal in Canada.
BloodWatch.org is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting the recommendations from the Krever Inquiry. We call on CBS and our federal, provincial and territorial health ministers for transparency and oversight in upholding those recommendations.
BloodWatch.org started a petition on the federal government website, calling on “the Government of Canada to: Refuse to issue or approve any license to Canadian Plasma Resources or other private, for-profit, donor-paid blood products company to operate in Canada; and Implement legislation that ensures no for-profit, donor-paid blood donor clinics are allowed to operate in Canada.” While the petition closes at 3:05 p.m. EDT on May 17, the letter-writing campaign continues; there are 45 days after the petition closes for the government to respond.
Join us in solidarity to protect this precious resource.
Kat Lanteigne is the co-founder of BloodWatch.org and the writer of Tainted.