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Preserving Ontario's Voluntary Blood Donation System

Backgrounder

Preserving Ontario's Voluntary Blood Donation System

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Ontario is taking action to maintain the integrity of the province's voluntary blood and plasma donation system.

The first part of the Safeguarding Health Care Integrity Act, 2014 would, if passed, enact a new statute called the Voluntary Blood Donations Act, 2014. The act would prohibit payment to donors for blood or blood constituents like plasma, including reimbursement of expenses or other forms of compensation. 

Specifically, the proposed Voluntary Blood Donations Act (VBDA) would:

    • Create prohibitions against, either directly or indirectly:
      • Providing payment to any individual in return for giving blood or blood constituents such as plasma.
      • Offering to provide payment to any individual in return for giving blood.
      • Accepting payment in return for the giving of blood. 
    • Provide an exemption for blood given solely for the purpose of research.
    • Provide for inspection and enforcement powers.
    • Amend the Laboratory and Specimen Collection Centre Licensing Act to authorize regulations that could include or exclude places required to be licensed under that act.
    • Amend the Laboratory and Specimen Collection Centre Licensing Act to give the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care authority to decide whether it is in the public interest to issue a licence to a lab or specimen collection centre.
    • Amend the Trillium Gift of Life Network Act to align with the proposed VBDA and to make clear that the only payment prohibitions relating to blood would be those which are set out in the VBDA.
    • The Voluntary Blood Donations Act would also exempt Canadian Blood Services and its donors to allow for compensation in rare circumstances. This is consistent with the 1997 report by the Krever Commission, a Royal Commission of Inquiry on the blood system in Canada in response to the tainted blood scandal in the 1980s.

Plasma products

Plasma is the yellow-coloured liquid that makes up about 55 per cent of total blood volume.  Plasma can be obtained from either a regular whole blood donation or through a process called plasmapheresis, where blood is collected from a donor. The plasma portion of the blood is then separated out, and the red blood cells and formed elements from the blood are returned to the donor. 

Plasma can be used as a direct transfusion to treat patients who are bleeding severely or need plasma to help their blood clot. Canada is completely self-sufficient in transfusion plasma. 

Plasma can also be used to manufacture drugs referred to as plasma protein products.  Examples of these drugs include:

      • Albumin: to treat fluid loss in burn patients, transplant recipients, and trauma patients.
      • Immune globulins: to treat immune disorders and severe infections.
      • Clotting factors: to treat bleeding disorders such as Hemophilia.

Canadian Blood Services

Ontario's blood system is managed at the national level (outside of Quebec) by Canadian Blood Services, which was founded on the key principle of voluntary donation. Canadian Blood Services does not purchase plasma directly from donors, nor does it purchase plasma that is sourced from paid donors.

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