Untouchable blood

It occurred to me yesterday that it was a long time since I had last donated blood, almost 10 years to be approximately precise, which in turn triggered my otherwise lazy brain cells to recall the following incident.

A few years ago a work colleague confided rather despondently over lunch that she had been denied the pleasure of donating blood at a local blood donation drive. I no longer remember her exact words, but the essence of the reason afforded to her was – she was Indian; Indian blood was not acceptable; and only European blood was acceptable. As a consolation she received a voucher to the local spa. If my interpretation of  her body language was accurate, this peace offering did nothing whatsoever, to assuage either the shock nor the humiliation of the rejection. She didn’t explicitly accuse anybody of being racist, but even today, I wonder if that is what she implied.  By the way, at that time she lived in a German speaking country.

As a rule, and mostly without exception, the Germanic psyche is geared to rabidly abide by both rules and timetables. Please note, I am not judging them, it is but a mere observation, just as Simha is an A-hole is too.

The Austrian Red cross explicitly excludes, for life, people born in Malaria prone areas from donating blood[1].

Malaria: People who were suffering from malaria or are in or born or grew up i.e. have spent more than three years in a malaria prone area are subject to a permanent exclusion

The last I heard, most of India was classified as Malaria prone, so I checked again, and have learnt that India accounts for 2/3 of all the malaria cases reported from South-East Asia [4]. Surprise, India is a part of South-East Asia.

Similarly, anybody who lived for three years between 1980 and 1996 in the UK is also not eligible due to Mad cow disease scares.

This small little google-research has reveled that a) you can get a hold of all kinds of information on the internet; and b) my colleague was rightfully denied her pleasure, because she was born in a Malaria prone area, and the rules indicate that people born or even lived in Malaria prone areas are never going to be eligible to donate blood.

Was my colleague too sensitive? Perhaps. Perhaps it was one of those numerous lost-in-translations that occur when two non-native English speakers attempt to communicate in English. I do not know. In any case, my belief that digging deeper does lead to you surprising answers is now reinforced.

Interestingly Europe isn’t the only one which is so picky about who can donate blood. For example, the American Red Cross society explicitly prohibits people who have lived for long periods in countries where mad cow disease is found, i.e. UK, from donating blood[2]. More controversially, gay men are still not allowed to donate blood. At all. It is the same story all over again at the Australian Red cross society [3]. The people who are not allowed to donate blood at all does make for a very interesting read, and it also raises questions as to why donating blood in India is so easy in the first place.

[1] http://www.roteskreuz.at/?id=633

[2] http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/eligibility-requirements/eligibility-criteria-alphabetical-listing

[3] http://www.donateblood.com.au/faq#faq_279

[4] http://www.who.int/malaria/publications/country-profiles/2009/mal2009_india_0023.pdf