For a Free Market in Plasma
By David Henderson
Ottawa, Ontario and Washington, D.C. – A group of professional ethicists and economists published an open letter urging provincial governments to reconsider proposals to ban compensation for blood plasma donations. The letter is signed by 26 ethicists and economists, including two Nobel Prize winners (Alvin Roth and Vernon Smith), a recipient of the Order of Canada (Jan Narveson), amongst others.
This is the opening paragraph of today’s press release advocating legalizing a market for blood plasma. Georgetown University’s Peter Jaworski, one of the signers, asked me to sign because I am both an economist and a Canadian. I did. The actual statement is very well argued.
Some excerpts from the statement:
There is no evidence that compensation for blood plasma donations in, for example, Saskatchewan, the United States, Germany, Austria, Hungary, or the Czech Republic has promoted the view that donors or their blood plasma are regarded as mere commodities. There is as yet no evidence that Saskatchewanians have different attitudes towards their blood plasma than, say, British Columbians currently have.
Everyone involved in blood plasma donation in Canada–the nurses, the doctors, the administrators, the medical scientists, the professors who study the matter, the chief executives of Canadian Blood Services, the manufacturers of plasmapheresis machines, the fractionators, and so on–receives compensation, except the donor. There is no evidence that Canadians regard the services so provided, or the people providing those services, as mere commodities in virtue of the fact that they are financially compensated. For the argument that donor compensation would so promote this view to be compelling, one would need an explanation for why the connection between compensation and commodification applies exclusively to compensating donors, and not to these other forms of compensation. No such explanation has been offered, nor is any apparent or plausible.
All of the signers at the end with little red maple leafs by their name are either Canadian or affiliated with Canadian institutions.