Blood donation

I walked past an ad trying to find blood donors today. As a frustrated blood donor, it annoyed me.

I used to be a vaguely regular blood donor. From the time that I turned 18 (and became eligible) to around 28, I would have given blood maybe once or twice a year (a perfect record is once a quarter). I liked to think it was something I could do for the community.

But then the Australian red cross (in my view) succumbed to hysteria. It banned from blood donation anyone who had lived in Britain for more than six months since 1980. So I was banned for life. The reason? It was so long ago, you’ve probably forgotten the hysteria. Mad cow disease. As far as I know, no-one has ever demonstrably caught CJD from donated blood. The UK certainly continues to accept donated blood from its own population, without asking whether they are vegetarians.

So Australia rejected what was estimated at the time to be 5% of its blood donating population for a risk that was seen as remote at the time and still has never eventuated.

The trouble with this, is that there is a real risk to the population if there are low blood supplies. But that risk is difficult to sheet home to one individual. If there wasn’t enough blood available, then surgeries might be delayed, people might get fluids rather than blood, if the decision was marginal. It seems likely to me that having a 5% lower blood supply for the last 10 years has almost certainly caused some poorer outcomes in some Australian patients than would otherwise occur.

But for a risk that seems less and less likely by the year, we are willing to put up with these poorer outcomes, or the Australian Red Cross has decided to make that trade-off for us.

  8 comments for “Blood donation

  1. November 24, 2006 at 2:19 am

    You and me both. I was also a regular donor before moving to the UK – now, they won’t let me. Just plain silly. I think it was getting caught with AIDS in the mid-1980s and seeing a lot of people die has made them too risk adverse.
    I can see the reasons for initial decision, but I cannot see why the ban is being maintained.

  2. November 25, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    Seriously? It’s still banned? I’m guessing UK black sauasages are confiscated at immigration control?

    Reminds me of a time I landed in Detroit (in 2004, I think) and saw a Canadian woman pulled out of the queue via sniffer-dog, searched on the spot…and they confiscated an apple! Fresh fruit is apparently a dangerous munition, even when brought in from a few miles away.

  3. November 26, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    Astonishingly, I still make it through all the hoops. There are now three pages of form to fill in, mainly about your sex life and the unpiercedness of your skin for any reason — all as you’d expect, but more stringent every time you go.

    And I still don’t mind this. I can sort of see the point. Sort of. What bothers me most is the demeanour of some of the staff I have to deal with. Some of them are lovely, but they ought all to be trained to be lovely as one of the requirements of the job. Some of them are aloof and some of them are downright abrupt and rude. Given that blood donation is time-consuming and painful and can make one pass out if one is unlucky, it adds insult to injury when they make you feel snubbed and insulted as well.

    At least they’ve stopped sending me letters saying ‘You are now due to give a donation of blood …’

  4. November 27, 2006 at 8:44 pm

    This is one of my pet rants. Thank you for putting it into words! When I was pregnant, I had to have injections made from donated blood products, because my blood type is rhesus negative. Feeling grateful towards the blood donors, I wanted to donate blood in turn. Only to be told that because I’m British, I’m banned! I queried it and the Red Cross sent me a form letter, which just restated their position. I felt like writing back: “So how do hospitals in UK manage?!” Actually, come to think of it, maybe I should have donated blood when I was in UK in July. Then again, I feel all scabby now, as if my blood is potentially lethal…

  5. November 29, 2006 at 10:31 am

    Same problem here in the USA. I lived in the UK for two years, ergo no more blood donation for me, either. And I’m O- so it’s really too bad for them: universal donor and all.

    On the one hand, I have the perfect excuse now not to do the good deed that really costs me the least but does sort of freak me out. On the other hand, it’s just infuriating that I can’t do this easy thing.

    The US Red Cross wrote, at one point, that they debated banning everyone who had EVER been in the UK but finally settled on a six-month residency restriction because it would keep the reduction in donors to an acceptable minimum. Now it’s down to three months.

    I suppose I can see their point — but it’s still tiresome. My vegetarian friends who lived in the UK at the same time I did are even more irritated than I am about it.

  6. November 29, 2006 at 11:35 am

    Yeah, hear hear to all the above!

  7. November 29, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    Me too. And I have a relatively rare blood type which you’d think they’d want. It’s ridiculous.

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