Only sufficient donations will stamp out black market in blood

The sale of blood on the mainland was banned years ago, but officials have turned a blind eye, saying the illicit trade has helped solve a supply shortage

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 May, 2016, 8:27pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 May, 2016, 11:32pm

A black market may emerge when demand outstrips supply, so say economists. Thanks to loose supervision and slack enforcement from the relevant authorities, illicit trading of all sorts can be found on the mainland. The latest being called into question is the sale of human blood for surgical use.

With 50 out of 70 major cities hit by a “blood shortage crisis”, there is certainly room for people to make some quick money. The task is simple – matching buyers and sellers outside the law. Commonly known as “blood heads”, such dealers can be found around government-run donation centres. Their annual income can reach HK$1.2 million.

The phenomenon owes much to the problems with the health care and blood donation systems. Patients currently have to pay for the blood used in surgery. But acute shortage of supply means they often have to get blood from friends or relatives for their operation. The rules have left many non-local patients in an awkward situation. They have no choice but to pay dealers to match them with “fake” friends or relatives for donation.

Illegal blood trade on the mainland is not new. Earlier, some donors were found to be transferring their “donation certificates” for money. The document was to encourage donation by guaranteeing the donor that he or she will be entitled to free blood transfusion in future surgeries. But there were cases where the promises had not been honoured. The irregularities have understandably dampened people’s confidence and willingness to give blood, which in turns aggravate blood supply shortage.

The sale of blood was banned years ago after a large number of people had contracted HIV as a result. Ironically, public security officials reportedly turned a blind eye to the abuse, saying the black market had helped solve the shortage problem.

The need for tougher enforcement is obvious. More importantly, better efforts are needed to encourage more people to give blood. Only when there is sufficient supply will the black market be stamped out.