One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Recently I decided to schedule an appointment to donate plasma with great hesitation because of my fear of needles and extremely hard time it takes a phlebotomist to draw my blood. Surprisingly, the representative I spoke with encouraged me to donate platelets or red blood cells over plasma. Leaving me somewhat confused because of the great need for plasma, and I was offering to donate without compensation, I asked why she suggested this. The representative then explained that the two blood types they mainly look for are AB and O-Negative. Instead of asking further questions that I felt this representative could not answer, I planned to wait until I was at the facility, to see what they wanted, and if I was qualified to give plasma. The two reasons I question whether I would qualify to donate plasma at the collection center is because I have A-positive blood and as a baby I had Rheumatic Fever which left me with a heart murmur. There is nothing wrong with my blood; however it is more of a health risk for me to donate outside of a hospital setting. I feel that because money can blur ones vision of ‘right and wrong’ from time to time, I don’t believe there should be compensation for plasma, just as there is no compensation for platelets or red blood cells.
It was this conversation that led to further questions and concerns about other donor’s blood types. Do most or all of the donors who are in desperate need of money, all have AB and O-Negative blood types? In the article written by Andrew Pollack - “Is Money Tainting the Plasma Supply?” there are a number of people down-and-out who donate their plasma for money. The article also goes on to mention how the abundance of collection centers are in low-income and high drug usage areas, which could be a motive for donating plasma for compensation. What draws people to these centers is that a single donation of plasma can earn them up to thirty dollars, twice a week. This plasma is then sold to pharmaceutical companies that will then use this plasma to create medications that are used to treat people who have immune deficiencies.
What hits close to home, as I await my appointment to donate plasma, I think about an article that was written by Judith E. Foulke, a writer with the FDA Consumer, she reports that in 1992 the FDA suspended the licenses of AVRE Plasma in Tacoma, Washington. They found 48 deficiencies that were cited and deemed a danger to people’s health. In Foulke’s report, she points out that a number of investigations that were conducted between October 29, 1984 – only three weeks after opening - and April 22, 1992; these were some of the findings by the Seattle District Investigators: several donors records were either inadequate, inconsistent or incomplete – plasma that tested positive for leukemia had no records of being destroyed - Phlebotomists were not properly trained on equipment so that when an apheresis machine alarm sounded, they did not know what to do, and in some cases they had found ways to disabled the alarms – another incident that was reported was that an employee reported that she could not see the hematocrit numbers that were displayed, and yet entered values into the donors records.
As a possible plasma donor, these are and should be huge concerns to myself and anyone who is going in to have plasma drawn and what is done with it afterwards. Even though donor centers test the blood of every donor, there are some diseases such as AIDS that may not be detected since it can lie dormant up to 6-12 weeks. Since there has been known cases of blood contamination not detected through testing at donor centers, it is possible to pass on the AIDS virus to an unlimited number of people. In one known case reported by Harry Nelson, formerly a medical writer for the Los Angeles Times, reports that Joseph Edward Markowski was charged with attempted murder because he donated blood plasma with the…