Chinese Farmer Dies Unexpectedly After Blood Plasma Donations

March 20, 2009 Updated: March 20, 2009

Li Jianjun, a Chinese farmer from a poor rural area in Shanxi Province, died one month after having donated blood plasma for the third time. When his body was examined, it was found to have almost zero red blood cells and an unusually high count of white blood cells. Malpractice during the transfusion plasmapheresis procedure is suspected to be the cause of Li’s death.  

According to the Yangcheng Evening News report on March 17, a blood plasma donation center in Shanxi Province violated the Plasma Center Quality Control Regulations issued by the Ministry of Health. The lack of the necessary medical examination of the donors’ health condition, together with donors’ poor knowledge on blood donation have caused a lot of health implications for the farmers who live by selling their blood. Li was one of them.

Since October 2008, 46-year-old Li had been started selling plasma to make extra money to support his family. He had only so far made around $25 dollars and received three gifts for the three donations he had made. He died unexpectedly in January 2009 of sepsis and respiratory failure resulting in a water-filled chest.

Plasma is the pale yellow liquid portion of the blood that is made up mostly of water and proteins. Unlike red blood cells, plasma is quickly and easily replaced by the body, so there are fewer side effects involved within donating plasma. In fact, a healthy adult can donate plasma twice a week, providing that there is at least a 48-hour window between donations.

Plasma is extracted from the blood by a process called plasmapheresis, during which a machine spins the collected substance and separates the liquid from the blood cells and pumps the blood back into the body. A careful medical screening process should be applied to ensure the safety of the donors and the quality of the plasma.

However, the local donors told reporters that they only had a simple physical screening. They were not informed of the process and could not understand why they got sick after the donation. According to regulations, a thorough medical examination should be done two hours before the blood is drawn and only qualified individuals should be allowed to donate. It’s very questionable how the procedures were executed at the center

Li's case is not the only one related to blood donation. Dr, Gao Yaojie, an honored AIDS activist in China, spoke publicly that the blood donation business has caused many innocent poor people to becoming infected with HIV in China. In a small village in the Henan Province she visited, 1,500 out of 3,000 sold blood to make money, and 800 of them are HIV positive. In another village, the only live beings not carrying HIV are the livestock.

Read original article in Chinese.