China is currently facing an unprecedented blood supply crisis, which led to the emergence of a black market tolerated by the government and local officials. In many Chinese provinces, blood stores are at a third of the levels considered to be safe, forcing many doctors to postpone non-essential surgeries.
The actual situation may be the result of several scandals related to China’s national blood bank and blood collecting practices. Seriously ill patients often address unofficial agents, called “blood heads,” that for a consistent sum of money can provide life-saving certificates that grant access to the state blood banks.
In China, patients can get blood transfusions if they prove that one of their family members or friends had donated on their behalf to one of the state’s blood reserves. But people without a supportive family or friends are often death-sentenced by such a practice. So, many of them turn to blood heads to solve their problems.
The current “blood famine” in China is the result of several scandals related to blood donations. More than 30 years ago, local officials asked local farmers to donate their blood. Many blood heads sold that blood to hospitals and state blood banks, but the improper practices of collecting blood resulted in hundreds of thousands of people getting infected with HIV.
In 2011, the Red Cross Society of China, an agency that helps the government collect blood, faced a huge scandal and a serious image problem after one of its workers revealed in a Facebook post her lavish lifestyle.
China has prohibited the commercial sale of blood in 1998, contributing even more to the actual blood crisis. The state also regulated more drastically the plasma and blood collection and testing.
The Chinese lawmakers issued regulations that encourage patients to show blood donation certificates whenever they need access to the national blood reserve. Some health facilities do not provide blood without these certificates. The Chinese government also limits whole blood donations to twice a year.
Blood heads are currently recruiting random people to donate blood and sell the donation certificates for extra cash to those who need them. Their average price for 100 cc (3.4 fl oz) of blood deposited in the state blood bank is $160. They will also need from the patient details about the blood type required, name of the hospital, and a day notice.
Patients claim that blood heads are bribing both the police and health workers to prevent them from interfering in their shady business.
“Don’t worry about the police. We’re outside most of the hospitals and we know all the police officers,”
one of the blood heads told an undercover reporter.
Image Source: Immortal