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Alberta introduces legislation to ban donating blood, plasma for profit

Alberta is taking steps to prevent donors from selling their blood and plasma for a profit. The changes are included in the Voluntary Blood Donations Act, introduced Monday in the legislature by Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.

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Alberta is taking steps to prevent donors from selling their blood and plasma for a profit.

The changes are included in the Voluntary Blood Donations Act, introduced Monday in the legislature by Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.

"Donating blood should not be viewed as a business venture, but as a public resource that saves lives every day," said Hoffman.

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She said Bill 3 will protect Alberta's voluntary blood donation system by preventing private-for profit companies that pay donors from setting up in the province.

The bill bans payment to donors and advertising for paid donations.

Fines for violating the law will begin at $10,000 a day for individuals, and $100,000 a day for corporations.

If the bill is passed, Alberta will join Quebec and Ontario in banning the practice.

Donating blood for money is currently a very small operation in Canada. There is a private clinic in Saskatoon and another near Winnipeg, but government officials say the legislation is to prevent any shop from setting up in Alberta.

Provinces currently fund and get blood and blood products from Canadian Blood Services, a non-profit agency that takes volunteer donations. The bill exempts Canadian Blood Services.

Hoffman said there is a concern that if private firms buy blood and plasma from donors to resell on the global market, there could be a corresponding drop in donors to Canadian Blood Services.

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"A blood donation system based on payment can lead to disconnection and fragmentation of the national blood supply," Hoffman said.

"In other communities that have private clinics we've seen a drop in voluntary blood donations."

Canada gets about 17 per cent of its plasma from Canadians and buys the rest from foreign markets, mainly the United States. Canadian Blood Services is working on getting more plasma, delivered through specialized equipment, within Canada.

Progressive Conservative health critic Richard Starke said strict health safety standards ensure blood is safe from private clinics or Canadian Blood Services.

Starke said given that there is not safety issue, it's hypocritical and self-defeating for Alberta, via Canadian Blood Services, to buy plasma from for-profit clinics abroad but ban the same service that could create clinic jobs in Alberta.

"By passing this legislation, this government is sending those jobs elsewhere," said Starke.

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Starke said the government was doing it to protect union jobs..

"It's this government once again protecting their union friends," he said.

The Saskatoon clinic, Canadian Plasma Resources, offers donors money on a sliding scale, from $25 to $100 for the 10th donation within a certain time period.

According to the clinic's website, donors receive a donor card that works as a non-transferable credit card. Donors are also eligible for prize draws.

The Winnipeg clinic specializes in very rare plasma-related collections.

BloodWatch, which describes itself as a not-for-profit organization advocating for a safe, voluntary, public blood system, commended the Alberta government for demonstrating "strong, steadfast leadership."

"As Canadians, we must work toward self-sufficiency in order to secure domestic blood products today and for future generations to come. We firmly believe Canadians will continue to answer the call and donate blood and plasma voluntarily."

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