Irish Blood Transfusion Service enacted blood ban deferral period without advisory group

The Medical Independent has reported the Irish Blood Transfusion Service replaced a liftetime ban on gay and bisexual men's blood donations without an external advisory group.

Nurse swabbing a person's arm to prepare for a blood donation, the new laws for MSM have been changed by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service without an advisory group.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) conducted the implementation of a one-year deferral on blood donations from gay and bisexual men  without the establishment of an expert advisory group.

In 2017, the IBTS lifted Ireland’s lifetime ban on blood donations by MSM and introduced a one-year deferral. Today, the Medical Independent has reported that the replacement was done against the recommendations of its medical advisory committee (MAC) to establish an expert advisory group to consider a deferral duration. 

According to an IBTS spokesperson, its board agreed that an expert advisory panel would not provide “any additional value to the decision-making process.” In 2016, there were reports of considerations for a five year deferral for blood donations from gay and bisexual men. 

Despite the medical advisory committee calling the lifetime ban “disproportionate,” there was disagreement over an adequate deferral period.

Following a review of board effectiveness, MAC consultants sent the IBTS a letter covering several topics, such as the complexity of setting a deferral period, the committee containing many experienced experts, and a recommendation to establish an expert panel. 

In the letter sent, it states, “In an attempt to increase the safety margins of the one-year deferral, a decision was also taken by the board to defer all donors who had an STI in the preceding five years. The data underpinning this was unclear and the decision represented a uniquely restrictive deferral by international standards; this was subsequently rescinded.”

Under the Health FAQ on the IBTS profile, a person cannot give blood if they have had syphilis or gonorrhoea. There is a four month deferral after a complete recovery for chlamydia and genital herpes. 

Before Minister for Health Simon Harris announced the lifetime ban would be lifted, Tomás Heneghan took the Irish Blood Transfusion Service to court. He critiqued the change, stating it has “certainly not gone far enough.” Further stating, “I found myself in the High Court as a 23-year-old, fighting the state simply to be able to perform my civic duty and engage in this extremely important act to help improve and save lives.”

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