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Ethicists and Economists for Ethical Donation Practices

Canadians think that pay-for-plasma is “morally appropriate.”
August 14, 2019

A significant majority of Canadians (63%) believed that paying Canadians for plasma donations was “morally appropriate.”

By age, 18-34 year-olds were most likely to think that pay-for-plasma was “morally appropriate,” with 75% saying so. 70% of 35-54 year-olds, and 49% of those 55 or older thought pay-for-plasma was morally appropriate.

By region, 64% of Atlantic Canada, 69% in Quebec, 61% in Ontario, 70% in the Prairies, 65% in Alberta, and 56% in British Columbia held that opinion.

The provinces of Ontario (2014), Alberta (2017), and British Columbia (2018) have all recently banned pay-for-plasma citing moral objections as part of the motivation behind the prohibitions, despite the views of residents within each province. Most recently, an attempt to introduce a federal ban in the Senate was stalled when the Committee assigned to investigate the proposed legislation voted unanimously to reject the Bill.

Canada is currently dependent on paid plasma from the U.S. and Europe, with over 70% of our plasma medicine made with source plasma from paid donors. This includes the above-mentioned provinces that banned paid plasma, with increased use of U.S.- and European-based paid plasma after the ban than before it.

These findings are consistent with similar findings from earlier polls.

Canadian Blood Services conducted an internal poll through Ipsos that found that seven-in-10 Canadians between the ages of 18-34 said it “would be acceptable to pay people for their plasma,” according to a Globe and Mail story. Canadian Blood Services did not release the details of their poll saying that they were proprietary.

Economists Nicola Lacetera and Mario Macis also found that 72.6% of Canadians were in favour of compensating plasma donors, with a sample size of 826 (95% c.i. 66.4%-78.8%). Those results were published as “Moral NIMBY-ism?” in 2018 in the journal Law and Contemporary Problems.


This online study was conducted by Campaign Research between April 3 to April 6, 2019, through an online survey of 2,035 randomly selected Canadian adults who are members of Maru/Blue’s online panel Maru Voice Canada and were provided with various incentives to respond. The panelists were selected to reflect Canada’s age, gender and regional distributions in line with 2016 Statistics Canada census data. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20.

The results have been weighted by education, age, gender, and region (and, in Quebec, language) to match the population according to 2016 Census data. Certain areas or groups may be oversampled but have been weighted to reflect their proportion of Canada’s population. This is to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of Canada.

The following screening question was asked in order to determine eligibility for participation in the study:
    “Are you 18 years of age or older and eligible to vote in federal elections?”

Survey Text

1) Have you ever donated blood?
   a. Yes, Once
   b. Yes, Multiple Times - (1-2, 3-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 20 or more times)
   a. No

   1a) (If a or b for 1) When was the last time you donated blood?
      a. Within the past week
      b. Within the past month
      c. Within the past six months
      d. Within the past year
      e. More than a year ago

2) Blood plasma donation is similar to a blood donation, but instead of lasting 30 minutes, it takes about 2 hours. Important life-saving medicines are made from blood plasma.

Is donating blood plasma something you would consider doing?
   a. Yes
   b. No

   2a) (If yes to 2) Would you be willing to donate plasma for free? or would you want to be paid for it?
      a. I’d be willing to donate for free.
      b. I’d want to be compensated with some payment.

3) The largest provinces have banned paying donors for blood plasma donations. Currently, there is a Bill before the Senate of Canada that would ban compensating blood plasma donors across all of Canada. Canada currently imports about 80% of the plasma medicine we need from the United States, where donors are paid.
    Those who support a ban argue that paying for plasma may negatively affect unpaid blood donations, exploits the poor, and violates human dignity because blood should not be paid for.
    Those who oppose the ban argue that it is safe, with no transmission of any diseases from paid-for plasma in the past 20 years, and that it would increase the supply of plasma for our growing need for plasma medicine.

Do you think it is morally appropriate for Canadians to be paid for plasma donations, or morally inappropriate?
   a. Morally appropriate
   b. Morally inappropriate

Question 3 Responses:
   All: 1294/2035 = 63.5872%
   18-34: 435/588 = 73.9795%
   35-54: 494/702 = 70.3703%
   55 & older: 365/745 = 48.9932%

For further details, contact Peter Jaworski or William English.