Paying the blood price is the way to end donation shortages

Blood has a tendency to make people quite squeamish, and talking about money has the same effect on the British. But it's important that we talk about both. Saying that you can’t put a price on blood or plasma has created the shortages we see today. This then forces the United Kingdom to purchase blood and plasma from the United States. This is still placing a monetary price on blood or plasma in a way that is less visible to the everyday british citizen. 

People’s lives end up being lost because there is simply no need or pressure to donate blood if you don't have a loved one who needs it or you've never needed it. Often by the time you realise that you or someone close to you needs blood it’s too late. In the western world the donor rate is around 3-4%, across the EU as a whole it stands at just 3.4%, while in the US the blood donation rate is three times higher at 10%.

The non-monetary cost of life that undersupply creates seems a lot greater than the cost of paying an individual to donate their blood. This is forcing the UK to buy blood from other countries instead of paying their own citizens – including from the US where donors can be paid. Blood would end up being cheaper and British citizens better off if we were able to pay them for their blood. While publicly subsidising blood donation at home to avoid purchasing in from overseas may appear protectionist but the UK’s state run NHS means blood purchases are by necessity from the public purse. The real issue is that it is illegal to pay for blood directly from the source but it’s not illegal to buy it from countries that have a surplus. Often this surplus is from paying their citizens to donate - like in the United States for example. 

There are already many requirements in place for blood donations including age, health standards, medication and lifestyle decisions that carry risk such as drug use. This is a starting point for regulation to ensure the safety of donors. There are also restrictions in place that prevent how often you can donate blood and plasma which means it cannot be a primary source of income for people. This makes the price a motivating factor to donate but ensures that those on low incomes are not abused by a private collector of blood. 

This is all a short term solution to the limited supply of blood donations as science progresses. There are many other solutions on the horizon including xenotransfusion, blood substitutes, cultured blood supplies and other means to support people who need blood either regularly or in the case of an emergency. Through xenotransfusion we can use animals, such as pigs, to harvest blood the same way as we do in humans without affecting the well being and quality of life of the animal. 

Right now though we’re in a position where we’re asked to pay a price for blood donations. We have the option to pay our citizens, pay other countries for their surplus, or people pay in the costs of their lives.