Are the guidelines used to screen potential blood donors discriminatory?

blood donation bumper stickerThis question will be the subject of the talk given at this year’s Undergraduate Conference in Public Health, the theme of which is “Giving Life to Public Health.” The keynote speaker will be Dr. Richard Benjamin, Chief Medical Director of the American Red Cross, whose talk is entitled “Controversial Public Health Aspects of Blood Donation: When Donor Selection and Discrimination Collide.”

The conference will be held:

Who can donate blood? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s page entitled “Donating Blood: Questions and Answers” says that:

“A person’s suitability to donate blood depends on two general considerations: that the donation will not be injurious to the donor, and that the donated blood will not be unnecessarily hazardous to the recipient.”

For example, in order to donate blood, you must be old enough, weigh enough, and feel well. More specifically, you can be ineligible to donate if you are on certain medications, have certain medical conditions, have visited certain countries within given dates, or have had recent organ transplants or body piercings; there is a long list of criteria that must be considered.

Do any of these guidelines discriminate (a word with at least three definitions) against anyone?

Read more in the PubMed database (to get links to the full text, use THIS address, NOT this one):

  • On the bottom right, choose MeSH Database (“Medical Subject Headings”) — use this amazing thesaurus so that you don’t have to guess about what search words to use
  • Enter blood plus the letter “d” to see all of the choices; e.g., “blood donor,” “blood donation”; choose blood donors
  • MeSH terms also have subheadings — you can check the boxes for ETHICS and for LEGISLATION AND JURISPRUDENCE
  • Click the button labeled Add to search builder
  • Then click Search PubMed
  • Here are the results for your search for articles about EITHER ethics OR law concerning blood donors
  • If you wish, use the filters on the left to refine your search to those written in English, written about human beings, and published within the past five years


One thought on “Why Can’t Some People Donate Blood? Is That Fair?

  1. Donating blood is one of the few things I do regularly as a public service, so I was a little perturbed the first time they told me I couldn’t donate because I had been to Belize – I guess there is malaria there. At least that first time they used my blood part of the study to determine whether people who had been to certain malaria zones actually have the malaria parasite in their blood, in other words, what is the actual risk – instead of just excluding all those people from donating. Now I know they’ll just turn me away if I’ve traveled anywhere on that long list of malaria zones in the last year (and I travel a lot, so it’s a problem) or even if I’ve just taken an aspirin within the last 24 hours. It’s a culture of safety and I certainly understand that.

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