Ethical for me to lie to donate blood?

Just as an aside, did you know that if you smoke marijuana on a regular basis, your liver enzymes wind up kinda wonky in a way that might make a screener think you have hepatitis?

My mom found out and is now barred from donating blood. Fun times.

Anyway, don’t lie if you can help it. I’d wait it out, or try a different center. Explain the situation. See what happens. If you can’t donate, there are still ways you can help. You can donate time or money. Lying rarely helps any situation, IMO.


I don’t think that’s a good enough argument. It sounds like, “Other people are unscrupulous and actually get money for it. Why shouldn’t I lie, particularly because I’m doing it for free for a good cause?”

My take on it is that this isn’t like you’re telling a white lie. It’s not like saying someone looks great in a pair of pants even when they look like a sausage in casing. Even if the chances are almost nil that you have contracted Type O HIV, the rules are there for a reason - to protect people’s lives.

I agree that the rules don’t always make sense, but in this case, it would be absolutely unethical not to follow them, in my humble opinion.

The screening tests aren’t perfect, and neither are the blood tests to tell you if you have HIV or not (that’s one of the things that raises concerns with me with the porn industry - no blood tests are 100% accurate 100% of the time).

We don’t pay money for donations in Canada. As a former lab tech and blood banker, I find the idea of paying money for donated blood is just asking for trouble, like Sal was mentioning. The theory is when there’s no personal benefit in donating blood, people who shouldn’t be donating are less likely to lie just to get the money.

The OP - add another vote for don’t lie to donate blood in any way. All the screening questions are there for a reason which may not be obvious to the person answering them. You may have gotten a mosquito bite in Niger which infected you with the rare HIV, regardless of any other lifestyle choices.

I have to admit that this question blows my mind. Why on earth would you even consider lying to donate blood?

I just got over my fear of giving blood a few years back, and then the mad cow scare came up. No more blood for me. Yes, I got a warm fuzzy from donating, but that isn’t worth the possibility of contaminating the blood supply, no matter how remote the chance.

You can still volunteer at a ARC blood drive. I’ve done it. Or write a letter or organize if you feel it’s an overreaching rule. But I am not a medical researcher, and I would never consider lying about something like this… for what purpose exactly?

I could be wrong, but I believe I have read recently (in the last 1-3 years) that a) sexual contact is no longer thought to be the number one method of transmission for HIV, and b) a significant percentage of those with HIV are unable to pinpoint when and how they contracted the virus. How can you be so sure the chances are “nil”? Did you get a splinter? Papercut? Have any open wound? And if you say yourself that its an undetectable strain common to that region of the world, then the safeguards in place won’t even help. If the medical professionals in charge of writing the rules feel it is important enough to mention, then its important enough for you to not lie about.

If you feel so strongly about the blood shortage crisis, find some other way to help. Donate money. Organize a drive. Publicize the need for blood. Depending on your willingness and ability to help, these may even have stronger impact than your one-pint donations would anyway.

I’ll defer to the opinions of the majority here, since, as some have mentioned, it’s not like car crash victims won’t survive without my pint of blood.

But that said, I’m a little surprised at the strength of some of your reservations. The fact is that while rules are rules, there are plenty of marginal cases. For instance, you can’t have been in England, but what if you just get a connecting flight out of Heathrow, and eat nothing but a grilled-cheese sandwich while you’re at the airport? Should you on that account not give blood? To me it seems like I’m a similarly marginal case. The suggestions, for example, that I could have gotten the HIV virus from a mosquito or a splinter or a paper cut seem far-fetched, to say the least. If that’s the kind of standard blood donors have to meet, it makes me wonder who’s left to give blood. Who among us can say that we haven’t had contact with an African or a homesexual or a Briton at some point in our lives?

I suppose my response is “why?” Why is it so important for you to disregard the opinions of medical experts over a pint of blood? You can still help the cause in other ways.

I’m fairly sure I was never exposed to mad cow as a child in Britain. I left in 1986 and so far, no symptoms. But I defer to the experts on this one.

Your logic is similar to that employed by some people I knew who wanted to bring their dogs to the UK. At the time, there was a mandatory six-month quarantine for dogs, because Britain was free from rabies. These people explained that their dog was an indoor dog, never fought or ventured beyond the front door, and seemed quite willing to try to figure out how to smuggle the dog in the country. Which if they had, I would have happily called 999 to let the police know.

I’m on board with the others who’ve advised you to just…not…do…it.

And yeah, I’m with you that some of the rules may seem over-reaching (I can’t donate anymore because I insist on being honest about my post-1977 choad licking, even though my HIV tests repeatedly show–not without good reason–that I’m HIV-negative), and I can kinda see how you might be uncomfortable with the “rules are rules” reasoning employed by some of the Dopers here, but the fact is this: the rules–potentially overreaching and all–really are there for a reason.

And, really, wouldn’t you rather not donate for however long you can’t do so (even if you’re right that your blood is safe) than lie and donate now and find out who knows how long down the line that, oops, there’s a chance that your blood’s not okay, and that you may have unwittingly exposed people to some horrible/incurable disease?

It seems to me that donating blood is something that you’d like to do simply out of the goodness of your heart (assuming, too, that you don’t have a rare blood type), and so you’re understandably disappointed that you can’t do it (not with a clear conscience, anyway), but I was wondering something. Is part of this your reaction to being marginalized in such a way that perhaps you aren’t used to being marginalized? I mean, I don’t know anything about you or how you fit into society–so I certainly don’t want to offend you–but still, the possibility did occur to me.

Just asking. And, not that you need my permission, but you can choose–for whatever reason, of course-- not to answer.

Anyway, as others have said, there are other ways for you to help vis-a-vis the blood supply.

Good luck.

The frustrating thing is that they don’t ask straight people about their sexual history. They could have sex with a different person every night, and they can still give blood. What a tragic waste of resources, not to mention the risk of those receiving blood from “safe” donors.

Oh, I’m not actually all that disappointed. I feel generally that giving blood is like jury duty – you should do it, but you can’t expect to enjoy it.

My basic feeling about this is that a strict reading of the rules would exclude almost everyone. Now, obviously, the blood banks don’t have a lot of choice – they have to write the rules fairly broadly so they don’t miss anybody who could endanger the blood supply – but that would seem to suggest that we, as individuals, have some sort of obligation to think about whether the rules are really meant for us, or for people who really are at risk. Especially since we know that thousands of people who aren’t technically qualified to donate do donate – not because they want to get away with something, but out of inadvertence. It doesn’t help, as cormac262 points out, that different agencies have different requirements.

But not to worry – I may seem to be rationalizing here, but I’ll go with the consensus, and save the Red Cross the price of a glass of orange juice.

They do ask some questions about a straight person’s sexual history. Every time I go, they ask me (female) whether I have ever exchanged money or drugs for sex and whether I have had sex with a man who has had sex with another man since 1977. If you say yes, you’re disqualified. Fortunately, I’ve led a very unremarkable life in that respect. I do think some of the restrictions are unfair though, since a straight person has just as good a chance at having HIV as a gay person.

My sister is moving to England for 18 months (or longer) for her job. Will this make her ineligible to donate blood in the future, or is the Mad Cow crisis over now?

In this instance, I’m going with Sal as being more qualified. Not that I’m suggesting that Sal lie to donate. Eventually if nough of these stupid screening regulations get piled on top of each other no one will be qualified to donate and then maybe the “health care professionals” will put some actual thought into regulations that actually make sense.

Most of the “health care professionals” are busy taking care of patients.

The FDA & CDC write the regulations. The CDC has been “reorganized.”

Why should the Bush administration recommend another look at the regulations–which might zero in on specific harmful behavior rather than excluding large groups? There are huge bureaucracies to be built!

Don’t blame the Red Cross.

I don’t like the rules either. I think some of them are too strict and unfair, excluding many people who would like to donate and are rejected. But I understand the rules, as they’re in place to try very hard to exclude the greatest number of “risky” people from the pool. I think it’s idiotic that gay folks can’t donate while my slutty straight friend can, but I understand the UK restrictions, and the questions about travel to certain areas. I’ve had to pull products from the shelves when we got notice that the donor now tests positive for something - and sometimes I can’t pull it because it’s already been transfused. People have gotten diseases from blood transfusions, and I understand the blood agencies’ desire to screen out as many risky donors as possible. People lie, tests can miss things, and there’s always a risk - but they have to try. Think about it from the perspective of someone receiving blood: don’t you want to be pretty damn sure you won’t end up with hepatitis or malaria or vCJD?

Don’t lie. Please don’t lie. Get a friend to donate in your stead, donate money, volunteer at a blood drive. Just be honest.

I know this topic has been beaten to death here, but I’m more willing to trust a professional’s assessment of risk over my own sense of what is fair.

Hey, don’t apologize to me. I’m perfectly happy to have an automatic out when someone asks if they can stick a huge fucking needle in me. Just don’t come complaining to me when you hit a shortage. You had your shot at my platelets, and turned up your nose at them. Too bad for you, too bad for the people you’re trying to help. Works out just fine for me, though.

Well, it’s great that you’ve taken the time to assess yourself as low risk, and that you’ve based that assessment on a common-sense, back-of-the-envelope calculation. And if you mean that there’s nil risk to you, then you are indeed correct and to be congratulated on your perspicacity.

The Red Cross, on the other hand, uses, and I’m taking a wild guess here, medical information, lots of statistics, and perhaps some other types of science unaccessible to the average Joe or Sal. And the thing is, they get to decide how much risk is too much risk. I may need some of the Red Cross’s blood at some point, and I’d prefer that anyone considering donating blood follow the Red Cross’s guidelines.

I know you think you’re only asking about your own particular case. But why are you so special? Why shouldn’t anyone with a strong opinion about their risk level decide for themselves about whether to give blood? The answer is that nobody gets to make that decision for themselves, no matter how smart they think they are.

Sal Ammoniac writes:

> But that said, I’m a little surprised at the strength of some of your reservations.
> The fact is that while rules are rules, there are plenty of marginal cases. For
> instance, you can’t have been in England, but what if you just get a connecting
> flight out of Heathrow, and eat nothing but a grilled-cheese sandwich while
> you’re at the airport? Should you on that account not give blood? To me it
> seems like I’m a similarly marginal case. The suggestions, for example, that I
> could have gotten the HIV virus from a mosquito or a splinter or a paper cut
> seem far-fetched, to say the least. If that’s the kind of standard blood donors
> have to meet, it makes me wonder who’s left to give blood. Who among us can
> say that we haven’t had contact with an African or a homesexual or a Briton at
> some point in our lives?

Are you an epidemiologist? If you’re not, you can’t know as much about preventing contamination of the blood supply as the people who have made these regulations. Their job is very difficult. They have to come up with a short set of yes-or-no questions which are just restrictive enough that rejecting anyone who answers yes to any question will decrease the possibility of passing on any of various infections without being so restrictive that they allow too few people to donate blood for the amount needed. They have made the calculations of what proportion of the people who spend ten years or one year or three months or one day in the U.K. will have acquired the Mad Cow virus. They have decided that setting a limit of three months in the U.K. is just restrictive enough to bring down the proportion of Mad Cow virus in the blood supply without being so restrictive that it eliminates too many potential donors.

Coming up with incredibly strained examples of cases where you could conceivably have acquired the AIDS virus doesn’t prove anything. Yes, if you were once in the same room with somone who had AIDS there is some absurdly tiny chance that a mosquito bit them and then you, giving you the virus, but that’s ridiculously improbable. The epidemiologists have actually thought about these things and they know which questions would cause too many potential donors to be rejected when there are very tiny possibilities of them being infected. They’ve made the calculations and you haven’t.

In the future, should there actually be a real crisis where there’s a desperate, immediate need for more blood, the rules will be loosen slightly to get more donors. If they do that, it would only be because the epidemiologists have decided that the immediate need for blood outweighs the increased chances for infection. Till then, obey the rules. Believe it or not, the people making the rules have worked hard on seeing that they are the best ones they can come up with.

Donating blood isn’t about being fair. It’s about being safe. Yes, the rules are sometimes fucking stupid. But lying about donating is reprehensible.

I’ll say explain your situation and don’t lie.

Last time I donated they asked me about my travels. I said the truth, that I had returned from Brazil recently. They asked me if I visited one of their “malaria zones”. I said truthfully that no, I didn’t go to any of those places (why would I? I was having fun at the place I was). So I got to donate, yay!

And one thing about the plasma centers… Plasma there is very, very much screened. Yea, the people may be getting paid $20-$50 for their pint of blood, but the eventual product is sold for so much more as to make that payment not as big of a deal, plus the plasma (and the person’s blood!!!) goes through a lot of testing to ensure quality.

I know it may vary, but I gave plasma twice a week for almost 3 years (with “rests” every few months). I got an annual physical (complete with drug testing!), plus smaller “physicals” every time I donated. Not only that, but every other month they would test my blood, too. And I’m also sure that they probably tested some of the plasma before using it.

Did people lie? Maybe, maybe not. But I bet if most of those that lied had some sort of problem, they would be quickly sorted out and deferred from the program.