Wednesday, December 11, 2013

MDA Blood Drive in the Knesset Cancelled After Ethiopian MK Discouraged From Donating

Not to long ago I donated blood and posted about it on this blog. I mentioned that giving blood is a big mitzvah. I also mentioned that Magen David Adom has very strict criteria with regards to who can give blood.

Well, today MDA and those criteria made the news:

An MDA blood donation stand was removed from the Knesset after volunteers told MK Pnina Tamano-Shata (Yesh Atid), the Knesset's first female Ethiopian member, that her blood would not be used on Wednesday.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein spoke to Tamano-Shata and expressed shock and displeasure at the incident.

"I thought this was behind us, but now it turns out I was wrong. This unacceptable phenomenon that has no place in the Knesset," Edelstein said.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with Tamano-Shato saying that the incident was unacceptable and that it demanded investigation, Israel Radio reported.

Several ministers and MKs called the Yesh Atid MK to express solidarity. Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat said that she hopes that something good will come out of the story and change the "racist and humiliating policy."

MDA's policy is not to take blood from people who were born or have lived for more than a year since 1977 in a country where HIV is prevalent, such as Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean Islands. They also do not take blood from people who lived in Great Britain for six consecutive months or more between 1980 and 1996.

Disgusting! That is to say, it is disgusting how the politicians are trying to get political mileage out of this incident. They seem to care more about getting a headline than the public's health.

The MDA website (in Hebrew) explains the policy:

הנהלים הקובעים את מדיניות התרמות הדם בישראל, לפיהם עובדים בשירותי הדם של מד"א, נקבעים ע"י משרד הבריאות, בהסתמך על המלצותיה של וועדת מומחים מקצועית בנושא רפואת עירויים. הם מבוססים על נהלים והנחיות הקיימים בארצות המפותחות בעולם, ושנקבעים שם ע"י גופים כמו ה-FDA והרשויות האירופאיות.

מטרתם לסייע למערכת הבריאות לעשות ככל שביכולתה כדי לצמצם סיכונים הנובעים משימוש במנות שעלולות לגרום לנזק בריאותי חמור למקבלי הדם.

גם הבדיקות המתקדמות ביותר שמבוצעות, בישראל ובעולם, לכל מנת דם במטרה לזהות מחלות שעלולות לעבור בעירוי (ובמיוחד דלקת כבד נגיפית ו-(HIV אינן מסוגלות לזהות תורם שנמצא ב"תקופת החלון", שהיא התקופה ממועד ההדבקה ועד לזיהוי קיום הנגיפים בדם. הסיכון שתיתרם מנה כזו גבוה יותר בקרב אוכלוסיות ופרטים שנמצאות בסיכון גבוה להידבקות, כאוכלוסיית הגברים המקיימים יחסי מין עם גברים.

היות ומכל מנת דם מכינים 3 מרכיבים, הניתנים ל-3 חולים שונים, הפוטנציאל לנזק הוא משמעותי ביותר. לא ניתן יהיה להצדיק, בשום פנים ואופן, כלפי החולים שנפגעו , את השימוש במנות דם נגועות אם יסתבר שהמערכת לא נקטה בכל אמצעי הזהירות המקובלים בעולם למניעת ההדבקה.

In translation:
Procedures that determine the blood donor policy in Israel , according to which the employees MDA blood services work, are set by the Ministry of Health , based on the recommendations of a committee of professional experts on the subject of medical transfusions. They are based on existing procedures and guidelines in the developed world , and determined there by bodies such as the FDA and European authorities .

Their purpose is to help the healthcare system to do its utmost to reduce risks arising from the use of (infected) units that may cause severe health damage to recipients of blood .

Even the most advanced tests carried out in Israel and around the world, to all the blood in order to identify diseases that may be transmitted through a transfusion (especially hepatitis and HIV) are not able to identify a donator who is in the "window period", which is the time from infection until the identification of the existence of viruses in the blood. Risk that such a unit will be donated is higher among populations and individuals who are at high risk of infection , such as the population of men who have sex with men.

Since all blood is made up of three components , which are given to 3 different patients , the potential for damage is significant. It can not be justified under any circumstances , to the affected patients ,the use of infected units of blood if it turns out that the (health) system has not taken all the accepted precautions to prevent infection.

MDA is right, and the politicians are wrong! Update: See what the Elder of Zion wrote on this.

Update: This may have been an intentional provocation by MK Pnina Tamano-Shata:

MK Tamano-Shata had approached the MDA's mobile unit, which came to the Knesset on a blood drive, and asked to donate blood.

She was allegedly told that she cannot donate blood because Health Ministry guidelines specify that blood should not be taken from people who were born in countries with a high incidence of HIV, or who spent more than one year in those countries. An MDA representative told her that donors from Britain and Ireland are also turned away, as are homosexuals.

Tamano-Shata told the MDA team that she has been in Israel since age 3 and served in the army. The MDA representative reportedly told her that if she insists that she wants to donate blood, it will be taken, but the blood might not be used. Tamano-Shata told the MDA representative that this was insulting.

The policy regarding blood donations by Ethiopian Jews was set many years ago, when it was determined that the immigrants have an especially high rate of HIV infection, compared to other Israelis. It is intended to protect blood donation recipients from infection with the dreaded disease.

Tamano-Shata may have known that she would be turned away: her entire conversation with the MDA representative was recorded with a cellphone camera, by a companion.

MDA spokesman Zaki Heller said following the incident that MK Tamano-Shata is a member of a committee that is currently discussing changing the criteria for blood donations, and therefore had to have known that she would be refused.

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