Octapharma Plasma: A Data-Based User Experience

From the series “Stealing Power from the Most Vulnerable: Authoritarian Practices in U.S. Business Cultures”

Image for post
Image for post
Octapharma Store Lobby

“I needed the money. I’m not ashamed of doing everything legal I can possibly do to avoid homelessness. The safety net is just gone right now, and it’s do or die for me — for millions of us. None of us has any reason to feel ashamed about needing help in this pandemic. But businesses like Octapharma — that exploit those of us with few or no options — rely on shame about our circumstances to keep us silent about injuries. I refuse to stand in that shame.” (The national effort to immediately extend pandemic unemployment assistance)

About Octapharma

Power moves in our practices between one another. …Hoarding power means amassing concentrations of what fuels forward momentum: capital, bandwidth, credit, status, authority, weapons, position, and other resources. 10 Data-Based Relational Principles of Power

Our five values — Ownership, Integrity, Leadership, Sustainability and Entrepreneurship — guide our patient-oriented corporate culture. We aspire to embody these values in everything we do.

[T]he regime of late-capitalist language [is] a set of ubiquitous modern terms, drawn from the corporate world and the business press, that…promulgate values friendly to corporations (hierarchy, competitiveness, the unquestioning embrace of new technologies) over those friendly to human beings (democracy, solidarity, and scrutiny of new technologies’ impact on people and the planet).

Currently, 5% of the world’s population provides more than half of the world’s plasma, with just five countries — the U.S. and four European countries that allow plasma donors to receive payment — accounting for 90% of the world’s plasma.

Jaworski and others believe this is not a sustainable model, pointing to COVID-19 as an example of a supply chain disruption that has reduced the amount of plasma available as the need has continued to increase.

Certain governments are people- and people’s rights-centered. In those places they make the plasma corporations play by the rules; sometimes they just choose to have as little as possible to do with them.

But the United States is a corporate country, and maintains the least restrictive plasma donation regulations in the world.

The Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association, which represents companies like Octapharma Plasma, states that the industry is proud of its leadership in establishing collection standards, ensuring that plasma is only collected from “healthy, committed individuals and is used to manufacture the replacement therapies that enable patients worldwide to lead healthier, productive and fulfilling lives.”

Image for post
Image for post

A Narrative User Experience of one Octapharma Marketplace

Power moves in our practices between one another. …Stealing power means engaging in practices that functionally create barriers to slow, stagger, and/or stop others’ forward momentum.” 10 Data-Based Relational Principles of Power

The machine gets stuck on “high pressure return,” and the phlebotomist is flicking the machine with his FINGER trying to fix it. My legs are crossed, so he says it’s that. I uncross. It’s 3 minutes or so and the machine is just cycling, not working. It’s stuck.

My arm is beginning to hurt: where the end of the needle is placed my arm is starting to darken and feel stretched. The blood is backing up in my arm. I try to get someone’s attention, and the phlebotomist saunters over. I show him and tell him my arm hurts and the machine seems to still be stuck. He flicks it again, looks at my arm, and I ask what it might be since my legs are uncrossed.

He says it could be anything: “dehydration, a greasy dinner last night, your arm was moving when it shouldn’t have been.” The site is burning and hurting and the machine is still stuck, so I offer: “I’m fully hydrated as you can see from the flow, I don’t eat grease in my diet, and my arm has been still the whole time while I squeezed with my fist. And I’ve uncrossed my legs. Why isn’t the machine working?”

He goes back to the same list of reasons that I AM CAUSING THE MALFUNCTION IN THE MACHINE. (I have noticed that different machines draw differently. This particular machine made more noise than the rest.) I say, “I don’t want to argue, but I know my body and right now my arm is in pain and the blood is infiltrating my tissues because the needle is in the wrong place and the machine is stuck.” I say these words just to him without raising my voice. I am direct, but not angry. I am clearly concerned.

He begins unwrapping things without telling me what he’s doing. I ask, and he says he’s ending the procedure. He goes very quickly, without going through the standard protocol of telling me what he’s doing as he does it: no offer of an ice bag (the bruising was going to be very bad, you could already see). No making sure the pressure was good at the site, and he neglects to tell me the compensation for the procedure. I ask on the way out, as he snidely tells me to “have a nice day.”

Earl comes out and I tell him I’m recording to keep everything transparent and accurate. He says “that’s fine.”

I ask him to confirm that the reason they are denying access to their marketplace to sell my plasma is because Octapharma’s phlebotomists have injured both my arms with misplaced needles to such an extent that the infiltration (the internal bleeding causing severe bruising) have made my arms unusable in this context. He would not confirm that.

Then the assistant manager insinuates that the bruising wasn’t caused in this store by saying, “Maybe the bruising is from here, we don’t know that.” He makes the claim in front of staff and “donors” after acknowledging to me just days earlier that the very same injuries were caused by phlebotomist needle misplacement in his store.

What it All Means

In a recent global survey, Pew found that, among respondents in 27 countries, 51% are dissatisfied with how democracy is working. Further, Millennials and Gen Zs are increasingly disinterested in capitalism, with only half of them viewing it positively in the United States. — Harvard Business Review, 11 March 2020

A Final Note

Written by

SF Bay Area critical researcher, creative, & cultural worker. Content developer for The Relational Democracy Project relationaldemocracy@gmail.com IG @dr.cbg

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store