Blood Products and the Commodification Debate: The Blurry Concept of Altruism and the ‘Implicit Price’ of Readily Available Body Parts

HEC Forum 27 (4):347-359 (2015)
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Abstract
There is a widespread consensus that a commodification of body parts is to be prevented. Numerous policy papers by international organizations extend this view to the blood supply and recommend a system of uncompensated volunteers in this area—often, however, without making the arguments for this view explicit. This situation seems to indicate that a relevant source of justified worry or unease about the blood supply system has to do with the issue of commodification. As a result, the current health minister of Ontario is proposing a ban on compensation even for blood plasma—despite the fact that Canada can only generate 30 % of the plasma needed for fractionation into important plasma protein products and has to purchase the rest abroad. In the following, I am going to suggest a number of alternative perspectives on the debate in order to facilitate a less dogmatic and more differentiated debate about the matter. Especially in light of the often over-simplified notions of altruism and commodification, I conclude that the debate has not conclusively established that it would be morally objectionable to provide blood plasma donors with monetary compensation or with other forms of explicit social recognition as an incentive. This is especially true of donations for fractionation into medicinal products by profit-oriented pharmaceutical companies
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Archival date: 2014-12-11
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