According to this article, (in Spanish) blood from people recovered from covid-19 is a millionaire's business, laboratories in the US were paying up to thousands of dollars for blood from people who had recovered from Covid-19.

According to this other article (also in Spanish), blood was being sold for 3,000 dollars in Bolivia, but in that country, selling blood is illegal, because it's considering "trafficking".

And in Argentina, a proposal to pay people who recovered from Covid-19 for their blood never happened.

I have a friend who lost his job due to covid-19 (the business he worked in closed because sales went down), and now he can't pay the rent, if he could sell his own blood to a private clinic or lab or something, that could save him from the bad moment he's going through.

What's the logic behind banning the sale of one's own blood in several countries?


6 Answers 6


Many countries are seeking to move to a system of 100% voluntary (unpaid) blood donations, and many others already have; according to the World Health Organization's Global Status Report on Blood Safety and Availability 2016, fifty-seven countries reported collecting 100% (or more than 99%) of their blood supply from voluntary non-remunerated donations. The WHO has long advocated for countries to develop blood donation services on this basis - in 1975, WHA28.72 stated:

Noting the extensive and increasing activities of private firms in trying to establish commercial blood collection and plasmapheresis projects in developing countries;

Expressing serious concern that such activities may interfere with efforts to establish efficient national blood transfusion services based on voluntary nonremunerated donations;

Being aware of the higher risk of transmitting diseases when blood products have been obtained from paid rather than from voluntary donors, and of the harmful consequences to the health of donors of too frequent blood donations (one of the causes being remuneration),


URGES Member States:

  1. to promote the development of national blood services based on voluntary nonremunerated donation of blood;

There are a variety of arguments employed when advocating for a 100% voluntary blood donation service. Firstly, the issue of coercion. Many organisations, including the WHO, the IFRC, and the Council of Europe argue that the provision of a financial incentive as motivation for donation amounts to coercion of the donor, and is incompatible with individual autonomy. Seemingly small payments can be significant even in developed countries - for example, the German Red Cross has pointed out that "the €25 usually on offer for blood was three times the daily allowance for those on the lowest level of unemployment support in Germany."

This leads us to a related argument - under a paid system, donations are more likely to come from those with a poorer background, something which the WHO has labelled 'exploitation':

Paid donors are vulnerable to exploitation and commercialization of the human body as they usually come from the poorer sectors of society and become paid blood donors due to economic difficulties. Any form of exploitation of blood donors, including payment for blood, coercion and the collection of blood from institutionalized or marginalized communities such as prisoners diminishes the true value of blood donation. A blood donation is a “gift of life” that cannot be valued in monetary terms. The commercialization of blood donation is in breach of the fundamental principle of altruism which voluntary blood donation enshrines.

However, barring payment for blood wouldn't improve the situation of those who may rely on these payments - this is clearly a problem at a deeper level than blood donation.

The quote from the WHO above, however, does introduce a more moral-based argument - some believe that putting a price on blood constitutes an objectification of the human being. According to the European Blood Alliance:

From a Kantian perspective, the offer and acceptance of payment for blood could be considered as constituting an instrumentalisation of a person, in that the paid donor becomes a mere means to the ends of others. In this view, payment for blood donation would violate the principle of human dignity. In putting a ‘price’ on a personal ‘good’ – blood – human dignity would be threatened through devaluation of the person involved.

At a more practical level, there are also safety concerns under remunerated donations. The payment incentivises donors to hide factors which would disqualify them from giving blood, for example infections transmitted by blood transfusion or drug abuse. Again, according to the European Blood Alliance:

Monetary incentives, as fixed allowances, can encourage undesirable donor behaviour through concealment of existing risk factors in the pre-donation interview. This can pose a threat to the quality of collected blood and ultimately to patient safety. In the South of the USA, donors from Mexico, some of whom are illegal drug users, travel across the US border to donate at centres offering even modest payments, whereas they do not donate in Mexico itself, because payment for donations there is forbidden. It is noteworthy that similar practices are presently developing along the eastern borders of Germany and Austria.

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    Comments deleted. Please note that comments are not the place to answer the question. If you would like to answer, please write a real answer which lives up to our quality standards.
    – Philipp
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 13:53
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    One addition to the last point is that paying for blood also increases its value to the collecting company. If it paid for a given unit of blood, then having it test as unusable means it wasted that money. If it's only paying for the process of collecting (i.e. workers, organization, equipment), then there's no real financial incentive to keep any individual unit. So it increases the incentives for undesirable organization behavior as well as undesirable donor behavior.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 16:49
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    Also paying for blood means donors may donate more than is healthy. And then there is this: wired.com/2011/06/red-market-excerpt real-life horror where people were kept enslaved solely for their blood. Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 14:29

The other answers were about general problems with having a market for blood, but the specific context of your question adds even more problems.

If viral antibodies being present in blood elevates its market value, what's to prevent someone from attempting to deliberately infect themselves in the hopes of recovering and then selling their now very expensive blood? The economic incentives would directly conflict with attempting to actually curb the spread of the virus.

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    Prohibitions against selling blood long predate this particular use. Most donated blood is just used for ordinary transfusions.
    – Barmar
    Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 14:33
  • @Barmar but this particular effect is a symptom generated by the same inherent problems in paid donations, which lead to the original ban in many countries. A monetary incentive can easily lead to behaviour which is bad for the donor and society. - And the OP implied it could be good to maybe allow paid donations for Corona, even if it is otherwise forbidden.
    – Falco
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 9:15

In my country (Bulgaria), paid blood donorship is forbidden. What the donor gets is a pack of food/drinks/snacks and 2 paid days off (days off are at the expense of the employer, as the law is from communist times, but most employers don't oppose).

Then again, there is a stable black market of donor blood because voluntary donorship is simply not enough. It's not that they don't try - the donorship is widely advertized, transfusion centers work extended hours and also weekends, temporary (for 1-2 days) transfusion labs are frequently deployed at employment or educational centers, etc, etc...

When there is a shortage (i.e. almost always), planned interventions and transfusions are delayed until one shows 1/2/3 (depending on the situation) donorship certificates. Emergency procedures are not delayed and they deplete the blood bank even more. One can ask for help from relatives, friends... or the dealers of the black market that are easy to find around the transfusion centers.

And this black market shows and emphasizes all the bad things that are listed in the @CDJB answer - donors donating blood more frequently than is healthy for them or for the recipient, ineligible (because of health issues or age) donors showing repeatedly at the donation center, sometimes with falsified or borrowed IDs, dealers getting a greater part of the payment, etc, etc.

In some parts of the country with weaker economies it is even expected to pay a certain amount (~ 60 EUR) to relatives, friends and friends of friends for a blood donation. People just consider it an ordinary medical expense and think it is immoral not to pay even when the donor refuses. Of course, it is not covered by any possible insurance and just depletes one's finances when one is already in trouble.

Disclosure: I am a frequent voluntary blood donor.

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    If I get 2 PTO days per donation I'll go donate every week if allowed...... Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 17:42
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    Beleive me, you cannot. It is not allowed for a reason. Here, whole blood donation is allowed once in 3 months and you can (in theory) safely go as frequent as once in a month. Plasma or trombocyte donation is allowed once in ~4 days and you still get the document for 2 PTO. I had once to do like 10 trombocyte donations as frequently as I could (i.e. once every 4 days) and it is pretty exhaustive. All PTO combined, I could work less than 1/3 of the time (provided insane level of job security).
    – fraxinus
    Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 18:05
  • "and 2 paid days off" Interesting. Here in The Netherlands paid donation is also forbidden, but we don't get time off. Then again, there's no shortage of blood donors here and it's strictly regulated. I don't think we have a black market. I'm a frequent donor and honestly don't see the need to get time off. I might skip my sports for a day or so, but two days off from work seems excessive. It may be used as an incentive for people to donate. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 12:43
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    @MartijnHeemels Usually I can't use these 2 days either and I see no problem, but that's what is written in the law. It is probably a workaround introduced when it became clear that unpaid donorship is not enough so the country can still pretend it is unpaid. And yes, we have a periods of shortage in the travelling seasons (probably related: we have the highest over EU road mortality and traumatism...).
    – fraxinus
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 13:11
  • @fraxinus Wow, yes! All you get in the UK for a voluntary donation is tea and biscuits! When I donated in France, back in the 1970s, I have a vague recollection that they offered a glass of wine. But that seems to exemplify the difference between the two countries - UK, tea & biscuits, France - wine!
    – WS2
    Commented May 23, 2021 at 17:50

One reason may be that people desperate enough to sell their own blood, may not live the healthiest of lives. I know paying for blood donations was common for blood banks in the USA when the AIDS epidemic hit in the early 1980s, which meant many intravenous drug addicts sold their blood - some of which were infected with HIV, which ended up contaminating the blood supply and infecting haemophiliacs.

  • Yes, I remember it well. Was it not the case that Arthur Ashe, the 1970s tennis star, was among the casualties who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion - and died? Britain, and I suspect many other countries, in modern times have operated a voluntary system of blood donation, for the reason that the sale of organs, and blood, have been contrary to medical ethics - but I am willing to stand corrected on that if anyone has evidence to the contrary.
    – WS2
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 13:05

Prohibitions against selling blood are a specific case of prohibitions against any trafficking in body parts. This is generally intended to prevent poor people from being taken advantage of by rich people.

One can easily imagine a billionaire who needs a kidney transplant, but doesn't want to put themselves on the normal waiting list. Instead, they go to a homeless shelter and offer to pay $10,000 to someone willing to give them a kidney. This is petty cash to the billionaire, but a fortune to the donor. This power imbalance due to wealth is considered extremely unfair, and effectively forces people to put themselves at grave risk for money.

For similar reasons, we don't allow people to sell themselves into slavery.

While it may seem at first glance that these are personal decisions that should be left to individuals, they're often not in a position where they can afford to say no. So it's a form of economic coercion, not a free choice.


Moral hazard is the thread that explains most restriction on paid donation

While there are many detailed and specific reasons why many countries ban payment for blood donation, the threat that connects them all is moral hazard.

The use of payment for blood donations introduces an incentive into the decisions made by the donor. And that incentive is unrelated to whether the donor is healthy and a suitable donor. There is no such incentive for voluntary donors.

In fact the people most likely to contribute blood when there is a financial incentive but not to contribute voluntarily in the absence of an incentive are somewhat more likely to be unhealthy than the voluntary donors. One particular concern is that intravenous drug users (who are often unhealthy and far more likely to be infected with dangerous diseases such as AIDS or various varieties of hepatitis). While blood is often now screened for dangerous viruses, this has not always been so. Therefore an incentive likely to be significant for particular groups likely to be risky, is a bad incentive. In future this might still apply because new infections are likely to arise in risk-prone populations and may do so before tests for them are widely applied.

While voluntary donors might also be unhealthy, there is no incentive in non-paying systems that is particularly attractive to groups of higher risk. So why acept higher risk by paying for blood?

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