Varadkar calls for changing blood donation rules for homosexuals

The Tánaiste said it was “incongruous” that blood had to be imported from Britain as some groups here, such as men who have sex with men (MSM), face restrictions on donations .

Since 2017, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has applied a one-year deadline for men who have sex with men to donate blood. However, over the summer, IBTS announced that it was importing a consignment of blood from the UK due to a supply shortage.

It has been reported that the supply of some blood groups has dropped so low that there are fears of widespread cancellation of medical procedures. Gay men can donate blood in the UK. As a result, Ireland imports blood from gay men while carrying the men back to Ireland for a year.

“Yes, I would support a rule change towards an individual risk assessment, far from excluding a particular group, such as LGBT people among others, but I would maintain the principle that this should be a scientific and expert decision taken by IBTS not political, “Varadkar told the Irish Examiner.

“It certainly seems incongruous now that we have to import blood products from the UK.

“At the time, IBTS argued that the precautionary principle should apply and that we had enough blood and that it was not necessary to take new risks, but that argument no longer seems solid.

“I am very much aware that this matter must be led by science. The health of the patients must come first.

“It’s the person who receives the blood or the blood product who takes the risk, not the person who gives. We must always remember this. But, looking at other countries, it seems that the most recent science supports a change in approach. “

The Ministry of Health created the Blood Donation Exclusion Monitoring Group to assess the impact of changes to the blood donor exclusion policy.

As part of this assessment, the Ministry collects statistical information on blood donors and infection rates between 2013 and 2020.

The group will be chaired by a representative of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer and will report its findings to the Minister.

Documents released under Freedom of Information say the group has asked Canadian Blood Services to provide an update on their experience with changing the 12-month MSM deferment policy. at three months.

Meanwhile, the Tánaiste’s office requested a copy of the exam in July.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “IBTS constantly monitors all deferment policies, in light of scientific evidence, emerging infections and international evidence, to ensure the continued safety of blood and products that are derived from it.

“The IBTS has established an independent ‘Social Behavior Review Advisory Board’ to review the evidence base for the selection, deferral and exclusion of donors in Ireland with respect to social behaviors that may increase the risk of getting specific blood-borne infections. The department will be engaging with IBTS as part of this work. “

Tomás Heneghan, who is traveling to Northern Ireland to donate blood, has brought an action in the High Court to force the government to change the restrictions and said the Tánaiste’s change of view is welcome.

“As a donor, my focus is on a robust and secure system that works for everyone,” he said.

“My preference is for a system that updates its policy as things change at each stage, instead of going through 10 to 20 year intervals.”

About Larry Struck

Larry Struck

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