Ethics of plasma donation: exploitative?


So, I’m sitting here giving plasma, literally right this second as I’m on my phone. My girlfriend is a do gooder. I love her for it. She’s been to Africa, Haiti. She got me in to giving blood. Then she switched to plasma because she could give more often. So I want her to be happy with me, so I’m a team player. I started giving blood, and this is my first time giving plasma.

Now, as soon as I walked in, I realized, this ain’t the big red bus. There’s a long line of the poorest people I’ve ever seen. And I thought, oh my God, they’re taking advantage of poor people who are so desperate, they will give anything from their body to earn a dollar. They would sell a kidney, and this business would take it, if they were allowed to.

Honestly, I feel dirty for taking part in this system.

Has anybody ever done this for the money or to help people or to earn points with their girlfriend or another reason?

What are the ethics of this?

I put this under “earning” because some people here may do this to earn Apple Watch money.


I don’t know enough about plasma? Is it dangerous to give it? Is it bad for our bodies to this? Is it as invasive as giving a kidney?


Ethics aside, I’m glad some people are willing to donate. When my daughter was hospitalized with Guillain-Barre syndrome she needed several courses of plasmapheresis. Without a steady supply of plasma, that treatment would not have been possible.

As a struggling single mother I sometimes sold my blood for $6 a pint. Heaven knows what the collection service charged the hospitals for this commodity.


I’ve given plasma a number of times, but it was always in Canada where they weren’t allowed to pay you for it. So I did it just for the cause of helping those who needed it. Since I would give without getting paid, I assume (since I haven’t looked into it since I moved to the US) that I would still give while getting paid and not feel bad about it.


It’s about like giving blood. Not dangerous or invasive.

A New York Times article indicated that plasma companies pay about $30 and then sell it for $300, and frequently place these donation centers in low income neighborhoods.

Now, I don’t have a problem with a company making a profit, and if the people donating really need money, then they too benefit from this arrangement.

But it seems predatory to target poor people to literally suck blood out of their bodies. Doesn’t it?

It’s the business practices that seem much worse than the friendly guys down at the local blood bank that give you free soft drinks and chips for donating.

Based on typical industry yields and prevailing prices, it appears that a single plasma donation, for which a donor might be paid $30, results in pharmaceutical products worth at least $300.

Away from the border as well, many plasma collection centers have historically been located in areas of extreme poverty, some with high drug abuse. That troubles some people, who say it might contaminate the plasma supply or the health of people who sell their plasma.

“Why in the United States do we have to depend on people who are down and out to donate?” says Dr. Roger Kobayashi, an immunologist in Omaha who uses plasma products to treat many patients. “You are taking advantage of economically disadvantaged individuals, and I don’t think you are that worried about their health.”


I once had to donate plasma out of need. When I first started out on my own I did it with no help and no hand outs. One month I was not going to have any money left over to eat after paying bills and donating plasma bridged that gap. Thank god I did not have credit then. It was an experience I will never forget. I was placed between two rival gang members who were flipping signs and arguing with each other during the process. I told them both to shut their mouths…and they surprisingly did. So in my experience, having that option was really helpful.


I wrote a story about this for one of my clients (it has yet to come out yet though).

Plasma donation is generally safe, but there are some short and long-term side effects. If I remember right, in the short term it can mess with your calcium levels and make you prone to passing out (not common enough to keep you from driving vehicles though apparently?), and in the long term it can weaken your immune system since they’re sucking the immune blood proteins out of you faster than they can be replenished if you go in multiple times per week.

I think it’s a great way for people to make money. These centers are especially common in low-income areas, and around college campuses (heck, there’s like three all around my local university!).

It does ring a bit exploitative though, especially like you said: these people would probably go so far as to sell organs if it were legal.

I tried to do it once but they said my veins were too small for the giant needles they use. I still can’t decide whether I’m happy or sad about that conclusion.


I don’t think there is anything wrong with it and the money is a good lure. I get phobically worked up over needles (I’ve passed out twice getting blood drawn :expressionless:) but I’d get over it for money…


I let a girl sleep on my couch for 6 weeks while she was getting back on her feet. She would ride my bike 5 miles to donate plasma so she could make a few bucks for groceries (well, mostly wine). I think they only allow you to do it once a week but I could be wrong on that. She was desperate, but from what she told me, so was the plasma bank. So, morally, I don’t see anything wrong with it. What you choose to do with that money is up to you but I would add it as earned income for sure. :slight_smile:


@BigDaddyG - I actually donated plasma for about a year two years ago. I too, found it extremely exploitative, and yes, I do think they prey on the poor. I had a good-paying job at the time, I just wanted to earn some extra money, plus I got a bunch of money for signing up. After a while, I felt like I was hurting myself. I have never had a problem with donating blood. However, I still have the scars left from when I donated plasma (probably 20-25 times total). It is really sad that our country doesn’t have other options for those who may find themselves in desparate situations. Because many of the people I saw were dirt poor, toothless, toting multiple kids. I don’t say this as a judgement, but an observation. However I did briefly have a male co-worker who donated plasma for a while as well, I think to fund his video game habit. I wouldn’t have called him poor, but he wasn’t well-off either.


In my limited number of years on the planet, I learned to neither look up or look down on the choices people make because I don’t know their situation nor do I feel like I should be passing judgment on anyone for anything they freely choose to do.

Are check cashing places exploitative? They’re more expensive than traditional banks but what if you can’t use a traditional bank? They’re less exploitative than the options that are worse than check cashing places.

Are plasma donation places exploitative? Perhaps, but they pay and they may be better than the alternatives that person has access to.


I donated plasma twice a week for 3 years while I was in college for beer/grocery money. When I first started in 2005 they paid cash $20 the first time $30 the second time (if you came twice in the same calendar week). At one point they were paying $30 and $50 to get people to come back the second time - the place was always packed (over 20 beds running from 6AM to 6 PM - bulk of them filled with college students.

To be honest - I loved it. I read or studied for an hour - hour half and got $ on the spot. I never had any issues - but was young and in good shape.

Edit - They always said they were paying for your time - not your plasma and that is why it is still a “donation” - don’t necessarily believe that, but they did pay the same for 110 lb person vs a 250 lb person that could donate more based on body weight