Home Opinions Plasma donation centers exploit college students and the poor

Plasma donation centers exploit college students and the poor


College students frequently struggle to make ends meet and often live paycheck to paycheck. Some use creative ways to make extra money. Plasma donation centers are well aware of this and prey on students and other impoverished individuals to make a profit.

Plasma is the clear liquid portion of blood that remains once red cells, white cells and platelets have been removed. Medically, it is very useful in treating serious illnesses; however, donation has become an extremely exploitative market.

It may be odd to think about a bodily component as an industry subject to monopolization, but there are currently only five international for-profit corporations in the United States that take such donations and compensate donors for their time. Although compensation may sound attractive, commodification has its dark side.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers it safe to donate plasma twice a week; however, the American Red Cross recommends people only donate every 28 days. Local plasma banks highly incentivize frequent donations, even going as far as having “bonus coupons” on their websites to receive extra money on up to four donations every six months.

This is clearly not safe.

Hospitals do not incentivize plasma donations with money. For-profit companies are the only ones to incentivize donations. One could deduce donation centers do not have the best interest of the donors or the medical community in mind.

These pharmaceutical corporations and plasma banks largely target underprivileged communities that depend on extra money to survive. According to ABC, nearly 80 percent of the plasma centers in the U.S. are located in America’s poorer neighborhoods. They also tend to target college students.

“You would not believe the amount of people that pay for coffee and food with plasma cards,” said Rudy Martinez, philosophy junior and Tantra Coffee House employee.

The College Investor, a personal finance website targeting millennials, has an article titled “50+ Ways To Make Money Fast By Side Hustling” in which they list plasma donations as “one of the more interesting ways” to make money. However, the manipulation of college students and impoverished communities is not that interesting.

In fact, it is pretty typical, and even asinine considering these people are the most likely to not be able to afford health insurance and reap the benefits of the very system they are being exploited by.

Obviously it is important for the medical community that people continue to donate plasma; however, the unfair targeting of poor people is highly problematic. No one should be forced to use blood as a financial lifeline multiple times a week. If the point of paying people for their plasma is to help them, then perhaps we should target the actual issues that push people to these conditions.

– May Olvera is a journalism junior


  1. I disagree with this article wholeheartedly. I know what it’s like to actually be poor and having plasma donation as an option for me to make $50 here or there when I need it has been hugely helpful. It is an easy way to make some money when you are in a pinch. Plasma donation is hugely helpful to people like me who have actually been poor.

    • I feel that. It’s definitely financially helpful, but my point is that it should not be something people HAVE to turn to, especially when the poor then can’t reap the benefits of the healthcare system they are assisting. In other words, plasma centers know that people need the money and it’s good that there’s an option there for the people who do, but we should strive for these options to not be necessary.

      Thanks for your response!!

  2. Aliana, Exactly!
    That is because the author grew up in a very affluent neighborhood and had things handed to her. She did not have to struggle to try to make the next meal.

    That is what makes me angry the most about this article. Plasma donation has been there many times to help when I’ve needed extra cash! You make your own decision to go… they do not force you! Doing so benefits both parties… It is a quick and easy way to make extra money that could buy you several groceries for the week or just extra money for a night of fun.

    The author need to CHECK HERSELF and get off of her self righteous podium with her FAKE article acting as if she cares for poor people.

    But then again, almost everything she rights, she rights from a place of privilege trying to act as if she is so oppressed… it’s disgusting

    • Hey, thanks for your very constructive feedback!
      Couple of things to address: Privilege is neither good nor bad — it is a fact of life. The issue is having privilege and not using it to illuminate and erode the structures that you benefit from at the expense of others.

      Second, the point of this column (which is not an article or “fake article,” but an opinion column) is that people should not HAVE to make these decisions, but BECAUSE they do they are being subjected to unsafe practices that they would likely not be subject to were they not poor. We should certainly look at some of the problems that push people into situations of struggle in the first place and understand that until then, people will have to do whatever they have to do to survive. But in my opinion, being satisfied with that reality is just not okay.

      Hope I could clear up some of your confusions! Thanks again!

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