But one pending sale particularly chills the blood. Plasma Resources UK was set up after a bout of deregulation in another sector, cattle feed, gave rise to mad cows and variant CJD, and so meant certain blood-based products could no longer be safely sourced from British donors. The outfit buys American plasma, and supplies it to the NHS as well as exploiting various derivatives globally. Lucy Reynolds of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine writes of infection risks, including HIV and hepatitis, that the profit motive could encourage plasma collectors to run. Sufficiently smart regulation might over-ride these dangers – so long as it can be devised.
Blood donation is a classic case study for behavioural economists. Donating for no reward provides a warm glow, but pay for it – or profit from it – and that glow disappears. Donations from the healthiest can dry up, while blood flows in from cash-strapped addicts and others. Plasma Resources\’ sale does not directly subvert British donations, but it could retard the World Health Organisation-endorsed objective of national self sufficiency, a goal that gives the best chance of keeping blood and money apart. It is the kind of point Whitehall\’s \”nudge unit\” might have made – had it not recently been put on the market.
Paying people to provide the blood does indeed seem to be a bad idea. It\’s one of those areas where the cultural or social reinforcement of \”doing the right thing\” really does appear to work.
Which is why no bugger is suggesting that this should change.
Interestingly, we\’ve even got experimental evidence to support this. The US at some point started labelling blood as being from paid donors or from donations. There was a massive market move to preferring the donated blood: it was considered (and almost certainly was) to be of higher quality. As an aside, an interesting example of markets providing a flight to quality rather than a race to hte bottom.
With this of course no one is suggesting an expansion of the paid collection industry.
But whether the people who handle the blood, once collected, should be operating for profit or not is an entirely different questions. Agreed, you can argue it either way, whichever way you like in fact. But it is a very different question.
And only idiots would fail to make the distinction.
As to \”national self-sufficiency\”. Oh Aye? Why in hell did that become a goal? And how well is it going to work in places with 30% HIV in the population for example? Or even, with CJD potentially at large, which is the reason for the setting up of this importing company in the first place?