Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gay people can not donate blood. It is a federal law since the 1980’s that gay people have been banned from blood drives. The United Kingdom lifted the ban on gay male blood donations in September 2011 however, any man who reports having sex with another man within 12 months will be sent away. Who doesn’t have sex with someone they went with within a year? So, essentially there really aren’t blood donations from British people either.
Recently I have been called to help someone in dire need of blood transfusions who needed blood and the quickest way was from his gay brother. He is straight and was in a car accident with his gay brother who did not suffer any injuries. Usually I do not immediately refer to one’s sexuality but in this case the entire story sadly dwells on our stupid laws that still discriminate against healthy people.
The straight brother suffered from intra-operative blood loss and the hospital had trouble controlling the loss of blood from his injuries. They found the source of the bleeding and clamped it but transfusions were needed. The hospital was waiting for blood products since at that moment the hospital’s blood supply was depleted. There was bad weather and they donated their supplies to other nearby hospitals. The straight injured brother’s blood type is O Negative. Unfortunately, in emergencies it is the type that is used firstly. The blood bank was also out of O Negative.
It would take 3 hours till another source for blood can be delivered and was told that without the blood he would be in serious risk of dying. The gay brother told the doctors that he was O Negative. He would have to be tested first and that can take at least 48 hours. Three weeks ago he was tested for Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The doctor said it was unusual but that he would take donated blood from him. When he revealed that he was gay when the doctor asked why was he tested for STD’s, he said, “Because I’m gay, I get myself tested once a year“. At that point the doctor stopped in his tracks and informed him that it is illegal for him to donate blood.
As of May 2912 our Federal Government has one study in a planning stage and three studies under way that could eventually provide evidence to end the ban. Gay and bisexual men are excluded regardless of their individual sexual histories or HIV risk. The lifetime ban on blood donations exist even if you have a clean bill of health. Yes, no one wants any hint of tainted or diseased blood in their bodies but in emergencies as in this story, exceptions should be allowed by law.
Yes, he can’t give blood to his dying brother because he is gay. He told hospital administrators that he did not have sex with another man in 2 months and was promptly informed that it is not a hospital policy but even if he had gay sex in a lifetime he would be prohibited by Federal Law. He cannot allow the transfusion to take place in his hospital. The one to sign a waiver is the straight brother who is unconscious and not able to sign any document.
The administrator was ready to risk the giant law suit that would be coming his way. He was more concerned with if the doctors break the law that jail would be coming their way. It became a non-negotiable position. The only way to save the straight brother’s life was to find a judge willing to sign a court order. Even if you are bleeding out in a hospital in a dire life or death emergency you need a court order.
I call it an archaic ban the administration called it a safety measure intended to prevent contamination to their blood supply. That argument did not even apply here. The administrator said that the gay guy said his blood was clean. Maybe it is or maybe it is not clean. The fact remains that the man getting his blood is unconscious. I suggest we appoint a guardian and get it waived. The administrator rightly offered their concern that if the blood is tainted, the hospital can be sued and possibly be criminally prosecuted.
It is the same argument hospitals get when they are asked to do experimental treatments. Dying patients are willing to try anything and the hospitals still won’t do it. Hospitals have to abide by time honored traditions. They are worried about their reputations. According to the CDC the Center for Disease Control, men who have sex with other men account for more than half of the new HIV infections in America.
The fact remains that gays pose a higher risk. The why don’t we also include the fact that HIV infections are 8 times higher in black men than white men and 19 times higher in black women than white women. Then why don’t we just disqualify African Americans from giving blood while we are at it? This law was passed in 1983 when the Aids epidemic was terrorizing everyone.
Just as the Patriot Act was passed after 911and both laws are still in effect. You may think the law was passed on blatant prejudice against gays but it was actually passed based on statistical analysis. The fact remains that gay men pose a significant risk. People need to trust hospitals. If the integrity of the blood supply is called into question, people will stop giving blood altogether.
Gays cant get married in most states, they don’t have the same adoption rights, they can die in America’s wars and had to endure don’t ask don’t tell and they get beat up and harassed and now we get to realize that they can’t even save their own brothers lives. Our courts are supposed to stand up to our nation’s disenfranchised. If this law is blatantly homo-phobic it needs to be changed.
Now we have gay HIV free men in long term monogamous relationships in the same high risk category as a straight guy who has unprotected sex with prostitutes and intravenous drug users so the law needs to be changed. For the sake of the guy’s dying brother the law needs to be changed now.
America is a religious country. Catholics think that homosexuality is a sin as do Orthodox Jews, Baptists, Methodists, Mormons, Buddhists even the Dali Lama thinks that they are sinners. I don’t ever think we will hear a president or a candidate take up gay rights.
The judge exited his chambers to the room and had a document in his hand and told the gay brother, “Go save your brother”

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