Keep NAFTA: Canada needs your body flu­ids

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Peter Ja­worski

“I want tar­iffs,” President Trump was re­cently quoted as hav­ing said. He also said, off the cuff, that he’d “end up prob­a­bly ter­mi­nat­ing NAFTA.”

Ei­ther would be a catas­tro­phe for my home coun­try, Canada, and not just eco­nom­i­cally. It is Amer­i­can sperm and blood plasma that makes and saves so many Cana­dian lives.

Canada used to have a suf­fi­cient sup­ply of do­mes­tic sperm donors. But in 2004, we passed the As­sisted Hu­man Re­pro­duc­tion Act, which made it il­le­gal to com­pen­sate donors for their sperm. The num­ber of donors plum­meted, and donor clin­ics were shut­tered. Now, we have ba­si­cally just one sperm donor clinic in Canada, and 30 to 70 Cana­di­ans who do­nate sperm.

Since de­mand far out­strips sup­ply, we turn to you. We im­port sperm from for-profit com­pa­nies in the USA, where com­pen­sat­ing sperm donors is both le­gal and nor­mal.

Canada has never had enough do­mes­tic blood plasma for plasma-pro­tein prod­ucts, such as im­mune glob­u­lin. Last year, we col­lected only enough from un­paid donors to man­u­fac­ture 17% of the im­mune glob­u­lin de­manded. The rest we im­ported from you, in ex­change for $512 mil­lion.

The anti-com­pen­sa­tion groups ar­gue that blood plasma from paid donors was less safe. They ob­ject to a Cana­dian for-profit com­pany pay­ing Cana­di­ans in Canada, but Amer­i­can for-profit com­pa­nies com­pen­sat­ing donors in Amer­ica does not ap­pear to reg­is­ter on their moral radar.

As for safety, the fact that we im­port prod­ucts made from paid donors should tell you that it is not an is­sue. Health Canada has said that there is no con­cern. The CEO of Cana­dian Blood Ser­vices took to YouTube to ex­plain that “it is cat­e­gor­i­cally un­true to say, in 2015 or 2016, that plasma-pro­tein prod­ucts from paid donors are less safe or un­safe.”

Maybe it’s true that peo­ple should do­nate th­ese flu­ids out of the kind­ness of their hearts. But the fact is that not enough peo­ple will. For years, we’ve been im­plor­ing peo­ple to do so, and it doesn’t work.

This anti-in­cen­tive ide­ol­ogy is not just a Cana­dian prob­lem: About 100,000 Amer­i­cans are suf­fer­ing on a wait­ing list for a kidney. In 2014, 4,761 pa­tients died wait­ing. A care­fully reg­u­lated mar­ket in kid­neys would save thou­sands of lives.

In the ab­sence of char­ity and good­will, per­haps it’s bet­ter to buy good re­sults. We can’t let peo­ple die as we sit and wait for spon­ta­neous ex­plo­sions in virtue.

What Canada should do is le­gal­ize com­pen­sa­tion for re­new­able bod­ily flu­ids in our own coun­try. It would be the morally right thing to do. It would help make and save more lives, with­out harm­ing any­body.

Un­til we re­al­ize our mis­take, we need you Amer­i­cans to keep rolling up your sleeves and un­zip­ping your pants — not just for the sake of lu­cre, but also for the sake of the thou­sands of cur­rent and fu­ture Cana­di­ans whose lives de­pend on you.

Peter Ja­worski, on the fac­ulty in the McDonough School of Busi­ness at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity, is co-au­thor of Mar­kets with­out Lim­its: Moral Virtues and Com­mer­cial In­ter­ests.

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