This is a bad argument. All the restrictions I’ve seen with respect to vCJD specify a cumulative time of 3 months or more in England, France or other countries affected by BSE … one visit for a few hours won’t put you on the banned list. Neither will backpacking around the country for a month. Even eating a bloody, rare steak every day for three months less a day… you can still donate.
Canadian Blood Services specify 3+ months in England or France, between 1980-1996 or a total of 5+ years in Western Europe, with additional restrictions if you have received blood products yourself while there.
Hema-Quebec is more restrictive: one month in the UK, three in France and six months in Western Europe, as well as restricting people who received blood products… they have the same 1980-1996 window though.
So a sixteen year time span isn’t exactly ridiculously restrictive… they have identified the most probable time of exposure, they still don’t know if vCJD can be transmitted by blood, so they ban the people at risk.
I’m a marginal case… I lived in Germany for three years, 1990-1993 which bans be from blood donation in Québec, but it is arguable that my cumulative time in France and the UK isn’t 3 months (I never added it up… I’m not sure I could anymore), so I could argue to be allowed to donate in the rest of Canada.
I don’t, though. It just isn’t worth the risk, even if it is so borderline, and still quite theoretical.
Although, I’m in the same boat - but for different reasons.
Last time I checked, I was still barred from giving blood as I use intravenous drugs. 'Course they’re prescribed (legitimately, even!), but that didn’t matter to the last three blood banks I checked. I will probably always have that prescription. That’s what happens when you have a very painful, chronic disease and a life-threatening allergy to NSAIDs. The chances are good that I’m permanently barred from donating.
The “rules” are definitely wonky, and in many cases bordering on bigotry. Whether it’s unethical depends on which system of ethics you subscribe to. Some moral systems say that lying is always unethical. Others are based on the “greater good”. You’re ultimately going to have to do what you yourself feel is right. If you know for sure that you aren’t at risk, and you feel that the good of donating blood far outweighs the principle of truth telling than go ahead. But certainly don’t do it to “rebel” against an unfair system. If the blood centers really get that hard up for blood they will have to rexamine their rules and change them. You’ll probably do more good by writing a few well directed letters to persons of interest explaining your viewpoint than in anoymously defying the rules.
But the professionals aren’t assessing risk. A straight man could, as noted, have sex with hundreds of women a year and as long as no money changes hands can still donate. A gay man could be in a committed monogamous relationship that dates back to the 1970s and he is permanently deferred from donating. That isn’t risk assessment. That’s stereotyping.
What is the evidence that the Type O virus is “undetectable by any test”? And how has the specific risk of living in Niger been measured?
There seems to be a lot of faith in the rules and guidelines. What is the justification for that faith?
I agree, and I think that you’ve underscored that this is a practical issue as well as an ethical one.
I think that I am capable of determining the relevant risk to me in a particular situation, given the appropriate resources. However, in the OP’s case, the issue is not of personal risk but of risk to others. I am not in a position to make *that * evaluation.
Also, I’m sure that we can all come up with situations where lying is the lesser of two evils. But, this is not one of those situations.
“The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. But that’s the way to bet.” We can sit and come up with specific exceptions to the general rules until the cows come home. I imagine, however, that the blood banks would really like as many people to be eligible to donate as possible - outweighing any considerations of bigotry - and that the rules they have are those that have been deemed to confer the optimum level of safety with the minimum of faff. Which is no doubt galling if, as ISTR is the case with you, you happen to be sat on a supply of invaluable O-negative and are personally as clean as an operating-theatre whistle, but them’s the breaks. And it’d be the same with me were I to visit the States and wish to donate a unit of my unacceptable-BSE-risk British blood.
With all due respect, I don’t think that proves your point. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t assessing risk. It simply shows that they aren’t considering every possible risk factor to every possible degree.
Obviously, when screening prospective donors, they can’t ask for a comprehensive history of that person’s lifestyle and sexual escapades. They have to cut their losses at some point. They have to use a questionnaire that will cut down on the risks without becoming unwieldy, and that does not rely on subjective interpretations.
So yes, they ARE assessing risk. They just aren’t taking every possible factor into account – nor should they do so.
Of course, a lot of the donation rules are for ass-covering. Canada got burned badly by tainted blood in the 80’s (over $1 billion settlement to over 6,000 people who received hepatitis or HIV from blood products, and Red Cross lost their rights to function as a blood banker in Canada), so you can imagine that an extremely unfortunate situation like that will result in blood bankers not only wanting to tighten things way up, but the rule makers also forcing them to tighten things up.
My point about someone possibly getting HIV from a mosquito bite wasn’t to say that a very low percentage event might be a problem, but that you don’t know all the things that regulation makers are looking for when they create screening questions. For all you know, the problem with people from Niger donating is that they ARE more worried about mosquito bites than your sexual history. (And don’t underestimate how important mosquito bites are in the transmission of diseases, either. Little flying dirty needles is basically what they are.)
In Canada, that is certainly not true. The questions about sexual history don’t ask if you’re gay or straight.
It’s unfortunate that, in North America, homosexual men are many times likelier to have HIV than heterosexual men or women. It’s just true, and they’re trying to be careful. Nobody has a RIGHT to donate blood.
Little lighthearted story about screening (I am a straight female)- I went to give blood and she went through the questionnaire.
All the usual questions then:
“Have you ever had sex with a man?”
She looks up sharply, “What?”
I said, “Yes. I am married with a child. Is that a problem?”
It took her a minute to realize she had asked me the wrong question.
I was about to say if that’s a problem then they are going to lose a lot more donors.
FTR I think it’s silly to not allow a gay man to donate - I like many other people on this board - know many sluttier straight people.
The questions they ask at a bloodletting (I just gave last weekend) have always bothered me. They don’t eliminate risky cases – they didscourage them at a certain level. They don’t ask me if I’ve eaten beef in the UK (which would seem relevant if they’re trying to keep our Bovine Spongiform Whosiwhatsis), but if I’ve spent 3 months there since 1977. A vegetarian who lived in the UK since 1955 would be a better donor, if Mad Cow Diseases was your beef (hah!) than a tourist who went there for one month and ate a lot of beef – and that’s a pretty likely situation, not something pathological.
Or they ask me if I’ve had sex for money even once since 1977. Does it count if I pay my wife?
I have to assume they’ve got some statistical key that they use to decide on these cutoff points. a gat guy who’s been in a monogamous relationship is surely a better bet than a guy who has a great many sex partners in the US who come from high-risk AIDS or BSE areas, but he’s the more discriminated against.
And if it is discrimination, so what? There is no “right” to be a blood donor.
If asking those screening questions leads to a significantly safer blood supply, I don’t give a rat’s sterling silver hindquarters about whether the questions are fair or not.
The blood bank serves the public by providing a life-saving product. It needs to be as safe as we can make it while keeping supplies adequate.
If it can be reliably shown that by asking other questions we can make the product even safer, I’ll be all for that. If the other questions allow more people to donate, great. If the other questions disqualify more people (but still leave an adequate supply) then I’m for that, too.
When I order a transfusion on a person (which I just did this morning, BTW), I want to be as sure as possible that I won’t be causing unnecessary problems.
I’m in the same boat, and I’ll add c) straight people who shag like minxes on steroids without using protection and who are at incomparably more risk of STDs than I am but can get past every one of these guidelines. There’s a blood drive where I am today and it irritates me I can’t give blood as I have O- (universal donor) and there is absolutely no room for doubt whatever that I am HIV free- I could give blood to the people I love the most and have no reason to be concerned- but I’ll reserve lying for a time when blood donations are emergency level low.
Y’know, I usually enjoy reading your posts, so I hope you won’t take offense when I ask “How did you arrive at that conclusion? Did you perform an actual mathematical analysis, or do you just figure that it must be so?”
An overly lax screening process would increase the risk of a tainted blood supply. An overly stringent process would compromise the volume of that supply. It seems to me that we must strike a balance somewhere, so I don’t think we should automatically conclude that the Red Cross is doing a piss poor job of evaluating the risks – not unless we have hard figures to back up our claims.
I think the Red Cross is doing their best under the circumstances, which are that virtually everyone is suspect for some reason. I completely believe that their goal is to make the chance of taking a tainted donation as small as possible. I just think that forbidding any man who ever had a homosexual encounter from donating is not an effective way to do that. As others have said above, plenty of gay men have only been with a few men – or one man, while straight people who have slept with dozens of people are A-okay as long as they never **knowingly ** slept with a man who ever had sex with another man, or exchanged sex for money or drugs. I always think of those PSAs where they illustrate how when you sleep with someone, you’re sleeping with every person they were ever with, and every person those people were with, and so on. (To hell with abstinence-only education – those PSAs plus a little supplementary science will get a teenager’s attention perfectly well.)
Why don’t they ask me how many people I’ve slept with? Why don’t they ask me if I used protection every time? After all the publicity about African-American men being on the “down-low,” and the rise of HIV cases among straight African-American women that may be related to this (and other factors, such as rates of condom use), are they going to have a new questionnaire for black men and women?
If anything, I think it lulls people into a false sense of security when they use the current methods of screening donors out. I’m all about being extremely careful – with everybody. I volunteered in an AIDS hospice in college; I’ve seen exactly what it looks, sounds, and smells like to die slowly from that disease. I want to eliminate the chances of anyone else contracting HIV. And yet when I donate blood, they never ask if I work or volunteer in healthcare, or if I ever have. We always took all the appropriate safety precautions at the hospice, but I guess there’s always a chance of glove failure or some other unnoticed mishap.
They test every sample anyway, as they should. I just believe they should ask all the relevant questions (more than they ask now), but assume nothing.
And, uh, thanks for liking my posts, JThunder. Say, you!