Wednesday, November 11, 2009


by Michael Dymmoch

Saw this sign on a gas pump recently and I had to take a photo. (With a digital camera, photos are quicker than notes and proof of things you’d have to see to believe.)

Anyway, I shot the sign because I was under the impression that trafficking blood was illegal in Illinois. And I wanted to verify or disabuse my assumption. Because I’ve spent too much time in the last year waiting on hold and stumbling through phone mazes, I thought I’d try looking up the Ilinois statute on blood donation before trying to find a government employee familiar with blood donation laws. (Yeah, I could have just called a blood bank, but what would I blog about?) And I guess I like to do things the hard way. So….

I started with the Illinois Department of Health website…

And immediately got detoured by the law requiring that traumatic injuries be reported (and to whom). Now I have a copy of the law and the form reporters are supposed to use sitting on my desktop. The form consists of two full pages of boxes to check or fill. (No wonder hospital visits cost so much.)

The blood-law information that was easily located in the Illinois Compiled Statutes* site seemed to be limited:

The public Health laws also contained (410 ILCS 535/) Vital Records Act, which distracted me again because a recent trip to the Lake County (IL) Coroner’s Office for an autopsy report (a public record that anyone can get for $30 since the dead have no right to privacy) and a toxicology report (ditto; $15) had made me wonder whether just anyone could get your birth or death certificate. (Short answer, not legally.)

By this time at least an hour had passed and I still didn’t know whether it’s legal to buy and sell blood in Illinois. Since I hadn’t even made it halfway down my day's list of things to do, I gave up and called the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Chicago office. The lady who answered the phone told me to call 217-782-7412, which turned out to be a downstate number for the ILDPH, Division of Healthcare Facilities and Programs. When I dialed the number, I got the division’s office hours and a phone maze, including the suggestion to check the website I had just visited unsuccessfully, and the advice to “stay on the line for an operator.” I did and got an answering machine. I left a message. (I did get a call back, but the woman who returned my call didn’t know the answer. She said she’d ask someone and get back to me. I’m still waiting.)

Since I’d now spent two hours “researching”, I decided to cut to the chase and call Life Source. One phone maze and two live conversations later, I still didn’t know if selling blood is legal. I did know (what I’d known before I called) that Life Source doesn’t pay for blood.

I decide to see if the Illinois Attorney General’s office could answer my question. The website's "Contact us” supplied no phone numbers, just a form to fill out with the following caveat: “E-mail messages are forwarded to the appropriate staff person and will be responded to by regular mail via U.S. Postal Service in the order they are received. Because of the large volume of e-mails received daily, there may be a delay in our responding to your message.” (I’m still not holding my breath.)

So I gave the IL Department of Public Health website one more try and found this:


Which answers one of my origingal questions: “Is it leagal to use purchased blood in Illinois?” But it raises another: “Is the ad legal and the company that placed it on the up and up?” I don’t have the time to pursue it any further. And I’m beginning to see why lawyers can get so much for their services.

* An explanation of how ILCS--the Illinois Compiled Statutes--are organized, takes up several pages at .


Anonymous said...
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Marie said...

Michael, I don't know the answer, either. But, I'm thinking that when you go the plasma route, they put the blood part back in your body. That is, they withdraw the blood, separate it from the plasma, keep the plasma, and return the blood to your system. So, they're not actually paying for the blood. I think. Obviously, I don't know the terminology.

I knew someone who routinely did this for cigarette money back when you could get about $15.00 to $20.00 a week.

Have you looked at the Blood and Organ Transaction Liability Act (745 ILCS 40)?

P.S. I wonder if you can sell a kidney.

Sara Paretsky said...

Michael, you are the most extraordinary researcher. I love your accounts of searching for data--you put all us Google superficial trawlers to shame.

Michael Dymmoch said...


You're correct abourt returning the blood to the donor during aphereseis. According to the American Red Cross web site, apheresis is most commonly used to collect platelets and plasma. During apheresis a machine draws blood from a donor’s arm through sterile tubing into a cell separator centrifuge. After the needed blood component(s) —“platelets, plasma, red cells, infection-fighting white cells called granulocytes, or a combination of these, depending on the donors' blood type and the needs of the community”—have been removed and collected, the rest of the blood is returned to the donor.

I'm not a lawyer, but as nearly as I can tell 745 ILCS 40 only protects those who adhere to strict medical standards, including screening. And I don't think it allows anyone to sell organs.


Research isn't much good unless you use it. I wish I was as good at follow through as I am at poking into things.