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Blood money

Blood money

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Unscrupulous brokers conspire with nurses to sell blood from ‘professional’ donors to desperate patients

HENG CHIVOAN

Patients at the National Blood Transfusion Center say they have to buy blood from brokers to survive.

Blood isn't cheap.

With blood becoming harder to come by and the cost of transfusions rising to $50-$70 per unit, it was only a matter of time before the black markets would enter the Kingdom's blood supply.

Freelance brokers are now conspiring with staff at the nation's central blood transfusion center to draw blood from "donors" who are then paid by the intended recipient's family.

"A unit of blood costs $70," a blood broker who identified himself as Thy told the Post outside the National Blood Transfusion Center (NBTC) in Phnom Penh on June 17.

"Last year, the cost was only $40 or $50, but along with the cost of everything else, the cost of blood has gone up, too."

He said that, if a member of a patient's family were to approach him to buy blood, he had a network of "professional" blood donors whom he could call upon to donate blood for money, with the broker taking a substantial commission.

"$15 goes to the blood donor, $20 to the blood laboratory staff, and $10 to the center's security guard. The rest is mine," said Thy. "The blood-selling network works very well," he added. "Blood is supposed to be free of charge in Cambodia, but no one gets blood for free from the NBTC."

The security guard at the gate of the NBTC denied the allegation, however.

"I have never received a bribe from a broker for selling blood," said the guard, requesting anonymity.

The arms of Sao Kim Ny, 38, a motorbike taxi driver at the corner near the NBTC, are lined with marks from having his blood drawn repeatedly, and he said he has been donating blood for money every couple of months.

"Since I came from Prey Veng province to work as a motorbike taxi driver here in 2005, I have sold blood more than 20 times, and some other drivers do, too," said Sao Kim Ny. "I don't want to sell blood, but I can't find a job or earn enough money as a motorbike driver to support my family."

I pray to God, don’t let me get sick, or

just let me die quick, or I will have to

die because I don’t have money to pay these monstrous,

thoughtless people.

Chan Sambath, 54, whose daughter suffered from leukemia and needed a lot of blood, said on June 18 that the women who work at the NBTC drawing blood were heartless and only thought about money.
"My daughter was in serious condition and needed two units of blood every three days, so I asked everyone, my neighbors, my relatives, to donate blood for her, but whenever I took donors with me to give blood, the women on the staff always tested them and said that they didn't have enough blood to donate," said Sambath.

The nurses then told him to contact the brokers outside the center for blood.

"When I found a broker and talked to him, he said that a unit of blood cost $40, but I had no money. I tried to bargain for $20 but he said no, it was impossible, because he said the $40 went to the professional blood donor, the centre staff and his own cut," he said.

"My daughter finally passed away earlier last year due to the lack of blood," Sambath said.

"I pray to God, don't let me get sick, or just let me die quick, or I will have to die because I don't have money to pay these monstrous, thoughtless people."    

Kim Sothavy, 56, living in Kong Pisey district, Kampong Speu province, told the Post on June 16 that her son was recently injured seriously in a traffic accident, and she paid $140 to a broker at the NBTC to get two units of safe blood.

"I am poor, but if I didn't get blood for my son, he would have died," said Kim Sothavy. "The hospital said they had no blood left in the stock so I sold a gold ring for $300 and took the money to buy blood for my son."

She said that before she bought blood she asked the nurse at the NBTC to take her blood, but the nurse told her "my blood pressure was too low and I couldn't donate, so I had to buy it."

Dr Hok Kim Cheng, deputy director of the NBTC, said on June 19 that he recognized that blood was being sold by "professional" donors but that there was no law banning the practice.

"The sale of blood is neither illegal nor legal. There is no law against it," said Kim Cheng. "But we need a law to ban people from doing this."

He was unable to confirm whether brokers were conspiring with the center's staff to sell blood, but he agreed such a practice would be highly unethical.

"We will look into the matter," he said.

"If we find anyone associating with and accepting bribes from brokers to draw blood from professional donors, we will take administrative action against them," said Kim Cheng, adding, however, that so far no one has been found to have engaged in this practice. 

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