Should Kiwis be paid to donate blood?

Default Profile ImageBen O'Connell
Kiwis Blood Donate

Per NZ Blood, over 5,000 blood donations are needed each week to meet our nation’s demands. And yet, donating blood is still free. Could New Zealand start paying donors to give blood?

There have been recent concerns that New Zealand is facing a tipping point around blood, in that if more people aren’t encouraged to donate, we may no longer be self-reliant on blood and blood products as a nation.

A 10% increase in plasma demand must be met. If Kiwis cannot, then New Zealand will have to compete internationally for plasma, which due to our location, size, and other factors, is easier said than done.

Paying people to donate blood has its pros and cons. While paying for donations would incentivise, especially as living costs increase, it comes with safety issues. Screening – ensuring someone is fit and eligible to donate blood – is also a sensitive dynamic that might be jeopardised if pay is incorporated. Donors are open with information when they are motivated for the right reasons; if someone knows money will follow, they could lie about their health.

In fact, the World Health Organisation has a framework to achieve totally voluntary blood donation, based on how “voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors are the foundation of a safe, sustainable blood supply”.

Further, the World Health Organisation notes that as paid donors are vulnerable to “exploitation and commercialisation of the human body” there is a risk that people will start to become reliant on money from donating.

While paying for donors would increase the blood supply and attract more donors, it would come with increased costs that ultimately may be passed onto patients and taxpayers. Blood banks and healthcare systems would indeed have to fork out funds in line with this.

Compensating donors for their time and effort and encouraging more donations might emerge from paying for their blood and blood products, but beyond the already mentioned ethical and quality concerns, there is also an issue of inequity in support. Since not everyone is eligible for certain social support programme, paid donations can benefit certain populations disproportionately over others, who may also be in need of financial assistance.

Addressing the New Zealand blood shortage is a much needed solve, but other avenues than simply paying donors must be explored to meet increasing demands.

2023 marks 25 years since the New Zealand Blood service was established. Since 1998 the service has united the blood transfusion sector into a single national organisation that has since helped to save or improve more than 540,000 lives.

Per NZ Blood’s website, “More than 610,000 people have donated during the service’s lifetime, with the current number of active donors sitting at around 117,000 people. A single blood donation can save up to three lives and New Zealand needs more than 5,000 donations every week to meet demand.

“Since 1998 NZBS has also collected more than 3.1 million donations of whole blood and 98,000 donations of platelets, and has issued more than 2.5 million units of red blood cells. To ensure Aotearoa remains self-sufficient for its blood and blood products New Zealand Blood Service is inviting new donors to join its lifesaving whanau – even if it means only donating once or twice a year.”

Visit the website for more information about the New Zealand Blood Service.