Canada Imports Precious Bodily Fluids

by on September 14, 2017 at 1:40 pm in Economics, Law, Medicine | Permalink

In 2004 Canada prohibited paying Canadian sperm donors, leading to a tremendous shortage as I had predicted in 2003 (see also my post, The Great Canadian Sperm Shortage). Canadian Peter Jaworski has an update (oddly enough published in USA Today):

Canada used to have a sufficient supply of domestic sperm donors. But in 2004, we passed the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, which made it illegal to compensate donors for their sperm. Shortly thereafter, the number of willing donors plummeted, and sperm donor clinics were shuttered. Now, there is basically just one sperm donor clinic in Canada, and 30-70 Canadian men who donate sperm. Since demand far outstrips supply, we turn to you. We import sperm from for-profit companies in the U.S., where compensating sperm donors is both legal and normal.

Note, by the way, that contrary to what you might expect from Titmuss et al. US sperm is considered to be of high quality because it comes with information about the donor.

And sperm isn’t the only precious bodily fluid that Canada imports.

Canada has never had enough domestic blood plasma for plasma-protein products, such as immune globulin. Our demand for those products, however, is increasing. Last year, we collected only enough blood plasma from unremunerated donors to manufacture 17% of the immune globulin demanded. The rest we imported from you, in exchange for $623 million, or $512 million U.S.

Reliance on your blood plasma looked like it might change a little bit when, in 2012, a company called Canadian Plasma Resources announced plans to open clinics in Ontario dedicated to collecting blood plasma. The trouble is that its business model included compensating donors. Almost immediately, groups such as the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Canadian Health Coalition began to lobby the Ontario government to pass a law to stop CPR from opening clinics. Ontario obliged in 2014, passing the Safeguarding Health Care Integrity Act, which among other things made compensation illegal.

…As for safety, the fact that we import products made with remunerated donors should tell you that it is emphatically not an issue. Health Canada has said that there is no health concern. The CEO of Canadian Blood Services, Graham Sher, took to YouTube to explain that “it is categorically untrue to say, in 2015 or 2016, that plasma-protein products from paid donors are less safe or unsafe. They are not. They are as safe as the products that are manufactured from our non-remunerated or unpaid donors.”

As Jaworski writes:

What Canada should do is legalize compensation for renewable bodily fluids in our own country. It would be the morally right thing to do. It would help make and save more lives, without harming anybody.

1 John Thacker September 14, 2017 at 1:49 pm

Seems like further evidence that the Obama Administration did wrong in interpreting NOTA to ban renewable bone marrow donations and that the Trump Administration was correct to drop the rule.

2 Bobb September 15, 2017 at 6:38 pm

Dude your own link contradicts you. The ban was started under Reagan and ended under Obama (granted only after a lawsuit).

3 John Thacker September 18, 2017 at 10:21 am

You didn’t read the full linked website and discussion of the case. After the IJ won the lawsuit in 2012, the Obama HHS in 2013 proposed a regulatory rule that would have once again banned bone marrow transplants. The Trump Administration withdrew the proposed rule. See more here.

It is complicated, so your error is understandable. I apologize for not linking deeper into the site.

4 Lurker September 14, 2017 at 1:56 pm

The State Knows Best

5 A Truth Seeker September 14, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Well, it happens to lower the trade deficit, I guess. Doesn’t China want to import sperm?

6 Ray Lopez September 14, 2017 at 8:56 pm

But, for once, Art Deco’s fascination with cuckolds is well placed, given the theme of sperm donors.

7 A clockwork orange September 14, 2017 at 11:41 pm

The spirit of a human being.  Would I were dust.  To see a land called Afrika  She adorned to lower heavens with lamps, to be cast at demons.  For which she prepared flames, so that they shall hear roar beneath the sand of time, the sound of fury; dwellers in the Blaze.

8 Bill September 14, 2017 at 2:15 pm

So, the bums on the street,

Who give their blood for money to buy booze,

Can now sell their sperm

To create

A New Generation of Canadians.

Build that Wall.

9 aMichael September 14, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Which sperm is worse — the sperm from the bum who sells it for booze or from the person who volunteers it? I’m not sure there’s a clear answer. Plus, it seems the U.S. sperm donors aren’t all homeless.

10 Tom T. September 15, 2017 at 12:54 am

Sperm donation is not a one-shot deal. A clinic will require a donor to keep to a schedule over several weeks. It’s not something a disorganized homeless person would have an easy time carrying out.

11 RPLong September 14, 2017 at 2:24 pm

When I lived in Canada, I once had a conversation in which I suggested legalizing the sale of blood donations. My interlocutor told me I had “screwed up morals.”

You can do a lot of things in this life, but one thing you can’t do* is mess with Canadians’ health care system, not even at the margins. 😉

12 Blue September 14, 2017 at 8:04 pm

What is wrong with you?

13 Careless September 14, 2017 at 11:42 pm

The moderators here are refusing to ban people for impersonating others to troll badly. It’s not a good situation.

14 Tom T. September 15, 2017 at 12:56 am

The moderators believe that if they leave the situation alone, pursuant to the Coase theorem, we will band together to buy the troll out.

15 prior_test3 September 14, 2017 at 2:25 pm

What can go wrong with selling blood?

‘In the 1980s and 90s, up to 30,000 Canadians were infected with hepatitis C and 2,000 with HIV from contaminated blood products. It is estimated that 8,000 Canadians have lost their lives as a result. In Britain lives were also lost, up to 2,400 of them, according to the campaign group Tainted Blood, due to systematic failures to protect the NHS blood supply.

In both countries, the public health calamity was preventable. But recent moves to privatise Canada’s blood system are laying the foundation for history to repeat itself.

Blood for profit was one of the leading causes of contaminated blood. Canada was not alone in allowing tainted blood-plasma products to be imported. The source of the plasma was high-risk populations in the US, where donors were being paid to sell their plasma for a pittance. The most abhorrent example was the import of plasma from the Arkansas prison system.’ https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/01/contaminated-blood-scandal-britain-canada-inquiry

But this time round, one can hope that no one in the U.S. will be selling plasma separated from the literal blood of prisoners.

16 The Lunatic September 14, 2017 at 7:03 pm

Well, here are your choices:

1) Do without, since Canada has a shortage of plasma, and let people die.
2) Import purchased plasma from the US, which was the source of the taint last time.
3) Legalize buying plasma in Canada, where it can be subjected to Canadian regulation.

And of course, the choice is to outlaw option 3, because socialists are out-and-out psychopaths willing to pile up any number of human corpses in the name of preventing profit.

17 Jaworski September 14, 2017 at 10:36 pm

No. This is a misunderstanding. The tainted blood scandal is about transfusions, this is about further manufacture into plasma-protein products.

Both Health Canada and Graham Sher (CEO of Canadian Blood Services) have said that paid plasma is just as safe as unpaid plasma when it comes to plasma protein products.

As I wrote in the article. Also in this one: http://nationalpost.com/opinion/peter-jaworski-canada-needs-blood-plasma-we-should-pay-donors-to-get-it

18 mpowell September 14, 2017 at 2:46 pm

There is a reasonable debate to be had about whether paid donations discourage unpaid donations and also about exploitation. But you have a nice experiment here between Canada and the US and it is pathetic, if predictable, how poorly Canada is responding to the result of that experiment.

19 Sigivald September 14, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Hey, at least Canada isn’t sullying itself or its people with mean, icky profits and recompense.

Pure motives matter much, much more than mundane things like “enough blood”.

(Ref. prior_test above, note that the Bad Prisoner Plasma That Made People Die was … from the early 80s. And it was blood that the American authorities had already correctly rejected as risky.

Obviously the problem when the Canadian government doesn’t do that is “that they paid people in the first place, also prisoners”, or whatever the thesis there was.)

20 derek September 14, 2017 at 3:25 pm

They are going to implement tax changes that will increase taxes small business people, the primary target is doctors and farmers.

The net result will be fewer doctors. They simply will not practice under these conditions, either retire or move to the US. All for some pittance of increase tax revenues.

Same mentality. HEALTH CARE SHOULD BE FREE.

Sure. The cheapest health care is the one you never get.

21 Chip September 14, 2017 at 4:06 pm

A carbon tax is necessary because it will reduce carbon.

Small businesses must be taxed because it’s fair.

I try not to be cynical but sometimes I’m sure that people are getting dumber in the Information Age, like we all moved into the world’s biggest library and then forgot how to read.

22 aMichael September 14, 2017 at 3:32 pm

I’m sure the knowledge that their donated blood is morally pure is a big comfort to those who die or are sick longer than necessary due to a lack of blood donations. Is living with immoral blood any better than dying with honor?

23 Matthew Young September 14, 2017 at 4:12 pm

I must have thrown away a fortune.

24 Your Husband's Cane September 14, 2017 at 4:20 pm

It’s possible that the Canadian Union of Public Employees is motivated by pure principle, with never a thought of montetary or political gain; but, given the history of its US equivalent, it seems less than likely. So what’s their motive for opposing compensation for bodily-fluid donors? I can’t, off the top of my head, come up with a mechanism by which semen-for-money would diminish the number, or decrease the wages and benefits, of government employees.

Unless, of course, the answer to the sperm shortage is mandatory redistribution, involving the hiring of a phalanx of new employees to collect and process the come tax…

25 Thomas September 14, 2017 at 4:34 pm

Improving conditions by introducing markets is a threat to people who ideologically oppose markets and economically prosper by reducing markets.

26 Chip September 14, 2017 at 4:50 pm

Or economically prosper by ideologically opposing markets while enriching themselves through those same markets.

Hello, globetrotting Naomi Klein.

“At an appearance in London, somebody asked her to name one thing she liked about capitalism. She instantly replied, “The shoes.”

The Venezuelans may have to line up for food, but Naomi will give up shoe shopping. Maybe.

27 Careless September 14, 2017 at 11:45 pm

“At an appearance in London, somebody asked her to name one thing she liked about capitalism. She instantly replied, “The shoes.”

That’s odd, given her whining in her most famous book specifically about shoe production

28 Anon7 September 14, 2017 at 4:47 pm

How about a ban just on government bureaucrats donating or selling their sperm to limit their impact on gene pool?

29 Bwahahaha September 14, 2017 at 5:31 pm

Because government bureaucrats are genetically inferior! Haha! Take THAT government!

30 Enrique September 14, 2017 at 4:54 pm

Although I agree with Alex about legalizing this stuff (see, e.g., my essay about vampire-human trade at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2332596), the appeal to “morals” is less than persuasive, as morality is a slippery and non-falsifiable concept.

31 mikeInThe716 September 14, 2017 at 5:36 pm

>>What Canada should do is legalize compensation for renewable bodily fluids in our own country. It would be the morally right thing to do. It would help make and save more lives, without harming anybody.<<

That is incorrect. It WOULD harm those (statists) who enforce the law. And it WOULD harm many economic illiterate snowflakes' feelings – which is not small thing in 2017…

32 Dick the Butcher September 14, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Big picture: the government abolished a market and replaced it with diktat. No wonder there are shortages of “precious bodily fluids.”

Dr. Friedman said, “If the government took over the Sahara Desert, in five years there would be sand shortages.”

Maybe if there were fewer American and Canadian abortions there would be more babies available for adoption, reducing the aggregate demand for certain “precious bodily fluids.”

33 Steve Sailer September 14, 2017 at 7:15 pm

Lesbian eugenics is a pretty interesting topic that hasn’t been explored much by the media.

34 Ray Lopez September 14, 2017 at 9:01 pm

What is the probability that two retarded parents who have biological children will also have retarded children? Answers: (A): 100%, (B) 0% (C) 25% (D) 12.2786%. When in doubt, always pick “C”, which in this case is also the right answer.

35 Careless September 14, 2017 at 11:46 pm

Since you’re awfully stupid, it’s not surprising that you don’t understand how retardation typically works.

36 Thomas September 15, 2017 at 11:34 am

Ray is apparently working from the 4-square genetic model from 7th grade biology and assuming the “retardation gene”, stipulating that it exists, is recessive.

37 Sam Haysom September 15, 2017 at 12:00 pm

If he were retarded he’d at least have an excuse. Instead he’s just a pudgy lonely expat.

38 ladderff September 14, 2017 at 7:56 pm

Nice to see this blog getting what it deserves.

39 Keith September 14, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Jaworski recently talked about this on the Economics Detective podcast (link: http://economicsdetective.com/2017/09/compensating-blood-fluid-organ-donors-peter-jaworski/). I thought he did a good job summarizing the opposing case as well as his own, though I admit my prior was strongly pro-legalization from the outset. Fortunately, the Overton window seems to be shifting in the right direction here.

As far as I can tell, allowing compensation for fluid donations is a Pareto improvement, though on some theories of harm it may be downgraded to a Kaldor-Hicks improvement. It’s hard to see how consequentialists could still favor a ban. (Of course consequentialism is not necessarily true, but that’s another matter.)

40 Casey September 14, 2017 at 9:29 pm

Wow, this comment section is even worse than it used to be. I’m amazed you guys haven’t banned that Art Decco creep.

On another note, who would want sperm from the weirdo’s who are doing it for free. At the very least you are increasing the odds of having a very odd child.

41 Careless September 14, 2017 at 11:48 pm

Uh, it’s not AD doing it. It’s the same person also impersonating others with the same lame trolling.

Now, why he hasn’t been banned is beyond me.

42 Art Deco September 15, 2017 at 3:16 am

Because it’s clearly being done by someone with ties to Mercatus and very likely the intern or grad student Cowen makes responsible for moderating the comments in the first place. It is possibly even Cowen or Tabbarock themselves as they have both shown I am unwelcome here.

43 Brian September 14, 2017 at 10:54 pm

In the relevant Act (2014, Ontario), it says “Canadian Blood Services and the individuals who give blood to Canadian Blood Services are exempt from subsections (1) and (2).” Those subsections appear to be prohibitions on giving and receiving payment, so, in other words, payments are NOT prohibited.

The problem then, seems to be that the Canadian Blood Services’ price for blood is too low. There might be also be a problem with the price paid by USA Today for articles about Canadian bodily fluids.

44 Jaworski September 14, 2017 at 11:08 pm

The Act bans all private companies from compensating, and CBS has said that they will not compensate.

45 Brian September 14, 2017 at 11:41 pm

Sorry for the inappropriate snark. It seems provincial health ministries need to give CBS more money so that they can pay for blood products. That might be more feasible than private participation, under the political circumstances.

46 Pete September 15, 2017 at 9:24 am

Does this remind anyone else of the primae noctis policy in Braveheart? Only the Canadians are paying the Americans to do it!

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