Tuesday, 16 December 2008

If Age is No Limit on Safety

The Blood Transfusion Service has announced plans to extend existing donors ability to give blood beyond their 70th birthday. It is a move seen as increasing the available pool as blood by about 15,000 donation per annum (of course with the addition of my Y Chromosome the odds of me getting that far based on familial precedent are slim). It will not apply to new donors who must start before their 65th birthday as at present and donations must be within 2 years of the last donation made to continue this extension. The service said that:

"given the steady improvement we have seen over recent years in the general
fitness of our older donors, it is now safe for us to remove our upper age limit
for donation."

So NHS Blood and Transplant are able to lift arbitrary provisions when they see that it is safe to do so. Which leads to the other arbitrary limit that does hit the headlines. Men who have had sex with another man, either orally or anally, with or without protection.

The Blood Transfusion Service will argue about men who continue to practice having sex with other men seeing as it is a high risk group. Something that while many in that group feel aggrieved about can see some justification in the argument from the statistics. However, while a woman who has had sex with a man so excluded can give 12 months after that relationship is terminated, a man who may have experimented in his past whether 2, 10, 20 or 30 years ago cannot. Is there not some way that such a group can been shown as safe after all this time? Especially as they are as at risk as those already included in the service's "donor selection rules".

When will the service see such men as being now safe? Indeed how are they certain that the simple question asked by such a group is not already by passed by any of their donors? If it is so far in their past it may be something that certain people may consider an irrelevance to their donating and makes the policing of such an arbitrary ban almost impossible to enforce.

If the Blood Transfusion Service is using word's like safety, fitness regarding their older donors they should look at what they do consider safe, prudent etc on some of their other arbitrary limitations.

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