Stephen Donnan writes from Northern Ireland on the latest blood ban revelations.
Under an FOI request submitted by the BBC, the NI Department of Health has admitted that there is no medical evidence to support the continued ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. The decision to lift the ban in England, Scotland and Wales was not extended to Northern Ireland in 2011 however a High Court judgement in October 2013 ruled that the decision to maintain the ban was ‘irrational’.
Former Health Minister Edwin Poots MLA claimed that he had seen two pieces of evidence, later revealed to be a letter [from the Irish Republic’s Department of Health] and a European Council report (see links to these below), that supported a lifetime ban on gay/bisexual men donating blood. Current Health Minister, DUP MLA Jim Wells, admitted that £40,000 had been spent by the Department in trying to appeal the High Court ruling.
Despite the ruling the donation ban remains in place yet the Department of Health maintains that it has taken its stance from SaBTO (Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs) which itself has changed its policy on lifetime bans to 12 month deferral periods.
The DUP have declined to comment.