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Feature

The dangers of the blood plasma industry’s over-reliance on paid for “donations”

BMJ 2023; 380 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.p199 (Published 06 February 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;380:p199
  1. Shoaib Shafi, freelance journalist
  1. Vienna

Demand for blood plasma is increasing but still relies on donations, which are poorly regulated in many countries. Shoaib Shafi reports how the cost of living crisis is pushing increasing numbers of Austria’s young people to donate for cash

Shyam Jain,* 24, a master’s student at the University of Vienna, has sunken eye sockets and a sullen face. Living in Vienna as an international student with little money to spare, he survives on a modest budget to meet his daily expenses in the world’s “most liveable city.” To earn extra money, Jain had long been thinking about donating blood plasma for €30 “compensation” but didn’t feel the need until September last year.

As prices in Austria rose sharply and inflation devoured wages, the rise in the cost of living hit. In light of this, Austria announced the Klimabonus, a one-off payment to combat surging prices as Europe confronted an energy crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The €500 payment was for everyone who had been living in Austria for at least 164 days. Jain was not eligible for the bonus, however, as he left for a research trip to India just a few weeks before he would have completed the required time.

“It was only when I came back from India after the summer vacation that I realised that prices had skyrocketed. My monthly rent increased by 25%, which was a lot for me. So, I had to top up my monthly budget somehow. That was when I finally decided to donate plasma.”

For much of the world, blood donation has been a civic duty that people perform to help others. Donating plasma as a social practice is, however, different from blood donation, says Zsofia Bacsadi, a researcher at the Central European University in Vienna.

Since plasma donation involves financial …

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