Meantime, said Macis, advances in screening technology have greatly reduced the risk of tainted or otherwise unusable blood being used later in transfusions.
Macis also noted that incentives could be strategically employed to attract blood donations at times when blood supplies are particularly low, such as holidays and summer months. Although many individuals are eligible to donate blood, only a small percentage of eligible individuals, less than 10 percent, donate blood in the United States. As a consequence, blood supply shortages, as defined by the supply of blood being below what is necessary for three days, have become the norm rather than the exception.
“This raises the question of whether pure altruism is sufficient to guarantee a sufficient, steady supply of blood,” Macis said in an interview.
Moreover, he added, the research has implications beyond blood reserves. It suggests that some form of compensation, though on a greater scale, could bring a much-needed boost to the supplies of organs, body parts, and bone marrow for transplants.
Selling blood, organs, and body parts for cash is illegal in the United States. However, donors of blood plasma can be paid. Also, a federal appellate court ruled Dec. 1, 2011, that most donors of bone marrow can receive compensation, overturning a law that had made such arrangements punishable by up to five years in prison.
The three authors conclude in their Science article, which appears in the magazine’s “Policy Forum” section: “Debates on ethical issues around giving rewards for donations are inevitable and should be encouraged. But there should be little debate that the most relevant empirical evidence shows positive effects of offering economic reward
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