Libby urges the Health Minister to deny for-profit plasma donation

Hon. Rona Ambrose

Minister of Health

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON

K1A 0A6

July 24, 2013

Dear Minister,

I am writing with my concerns about Health Canada’s recent indications that it may approve paid-for plasma donation centres within Canada, in response to the call for written feedback on the Round Table Discussion on Payment of Plasma Donors in Canada – Summary Report.

I am dismayed that no public in-person consultations have been held on this issue, which my NDP colleagues called for in March 2013.  We know that a round table was held on April 13, 2013 in Toronto, and that it was an invitation-only event, closed to the public.  It is unacceptable that public in-person consultations will not be held on this issue, as all members of the public, including local health and social service organizations and local representatives at the federal, provincial, and municipal level, have the right to speak directly with department officials about decisions to approve a for-profit plasma clinic in their community.  

I am disappointed that the government is considering paid-for plasma donations.  I believe it compromises the high standards that currently exist in our voluntary blood donation system.  We are still dealing with the aftermath of tainted blood scandal, which infected over 20,000 Canadians with Hepatitis C and HIV, and in which paid-for blood donations were cited as a significant reason for this public health catastrophe. 

In his review of the tainted blood scandal, Justice Krever recommended that ‘donors of blood and blood plasma should not be paid for their donations, except in rare circumstances’ (p. 1047).  Many Canadians affected by this tragedy have expressed their shock that this government would consider returning to a monetary compensation system for blood plasma. 

The World Health Organization currently encourages countries that currently pay for blood and blood plasma to move towards 100% voluntary system, a decision they made based on the fact that voluntary donations are the safest type of blood collection.

The proposed clinics applying for licenses, operated by Canadian Plasma Resources, are located in areas next to a homeless shelter and another next to a mental health and addictions facility.  This poses serious ethical questions about the donors these clinics plan to attract and their level of social responsibility in the communities in which they intend to operate.

There is no clear reason to justify opening these clinics.  There has been no indication from Canadian Blood Services that Canada cannot meet its domestic demand for plasma products, and no reason has been presented for these clinics to open, other than to generate profits for the companies operating them to sell plasma products.  New democrats strongly believe that the proposed paid-for plasma donation clinics should not be licensed in Canada unless an exceptional need arises, as outlined by Justice Krever.

I urge you to carefully consult with the public and relevant officials on these proposed clinics and to evaluate the need for additional plasma sources in Canada.

Sincerely,

Libby Davies, MP

Vancouver East

This Open Letter to Ministers & Public Officials was posted on July 26, 2013
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