Capitalism Drains America’s Blood Banks as Exports Bring in $1.4 Billion

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Hospitals are desperate for blood donors: more than 4,000 blood drives were canceled in the US because of the coronavirus, according to the American Association of Blood Banks.

This situation, which resulted in a loss of 130,000 donations, is unprecedented, according to Dr. Claudia Cohn, AABB’s chief medical officer and director of the blood bank at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.

Meanwhile, corporations are buying the blood of America’s poor, drawing and selling the plasma abroad in a global enterprise.

A 2019 article in MintPress News identified paid blood donations as a sign of the latest stage of capitalism, with corporate blood collection agencies targeting the poor, homeless, students and even animals as a lucrative blood source ripe for harvesting. With sales of $1.4 billion in 2018, exports from the US accounted for 16.3 percent of the blood on the international market.

Worldwide, exports of life-giving human and animal blood totaled $8.4 billion in 2018. That dollar amount reflects an 88.6 percent increase for all blood shippers since 2014, when global blood shipments were worth $4.5 billion. From 2017 to 2018, blood exports appreciated by 12.9 percent.

Americans are allowed to donate blood twice a week, but losing that much plasma can cause health problems for donors. For example, donors can have lower protein count, and they can suffer near-permanent fatigue or anemia. That makes poor people’s health even more precarious.

While human blood is not yet sold on the futures markets, plasma increasingly is becoming a global commodity, with some people reporting that the pay for their blood fluctuates—on some days they earn $75 for a donation, while on other days just $20. Another issue is that many people travel from Mexico to the US on temporary visas to donate, with few checks on their health records and the safety of their blood.

A 2006 article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association predicted the trend, but it has continued to develop outside the radar of establishment news media, despite the potential impact on people around the world. While an article posted on the independent website Common Dreams linked the global blood products market to late stage capitalism, a search of the LexisNexis news database did not return any corporate news coverage of this phenomenon.

Source: Alan Macleod, “Harvesting the Blood of America’s Poor: The Latest Stage of Capitalism,” MintPress News, December 3, 2019,

Student Researcher: Tuuli Rantasalo (University of Regina)

Faculty Evaluator: Suliman Adam (University of Regina)