Bioethics Blogs

Got Plasma?

Lisbeth Witthøfft Nielsen considers ways of increasing the pool of voluntary unpaid plasma donors in Canada.


Canadian Blood Services and Hema Quebec are responsible for the day-to-day administration of blood supply to Canadian hospitals. This includes the distribution of whole blood and fresh frozen plasma for transfusions, as well as the distribution of plasma protein products to treat patients with bleeding disorders, immune disorders, and other rare diseases.

According to Canadian Blood Services, Canada’s need for  plasma used in plasma protein products has increased in the last ten years from approximately 600,000 litres per year in 2007 to 1,000,000 litres per year in 2016.

Currently, Canada’s voluntary blood collection system is able to meet 100% of the demand for plasma used for transfusions, but only 25% of the demand for plasma used in plasma protein products such as Immunoglobulin (for example used in treatment of patients with haemophilia). Typically this plasma is recovered from altruistic whole blood donations made in Canada and the U.S. Only a small percentage of this plasma comes from donors who undergo apheresis. Apheresis is a process by which the donor’s blood passes through a machine that separates out the plasma after which a plasma-substitute is added to the blood which is then returned to the donor through a needle in the arm. The remaining 75% of plasma protein products is imported by Canadian Blood Services from private American and European companies who collect plasma from paid donors.

Province House, Nova Scotia

In Canada, provincial and territorial governments decide whether to allow payment for plasma.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.