Monday, 25 May 2015

Measures in place to ensure blood supply safety

WE THANK Mr Kang Choon Tian for highlighting that the integrity of our national blood supply also depends on donors' honesty and sense of social responsibility ("Enough checks on blood donors?"; May 14).

Using the most sensitive testing technologies available, every unit of donated blood in our blood banks is processed and tested for infectious diseases, including HIV. Units with positive or inconclusive results for diseases will not be for patients' use.

Such stringent and comprehensive measures, based on international standards and best practices, safeguard the health and safety of patients receiving the blood.

Like all blood banks worldwide, we are mindful of window periods, during which the early stages of infections are undetectable, even with the best available tests.

As an additional protective measure, for the safety of blood recipients, every blood donor is required to truthfully answer all questions on his medical, travel and sexual history, in the Donor Health Assessment Questionnaire and the Declaration Form.

During a face-to-face private interview, a medical screener will go through these questions with him.

After donation, the donor can contact the blood bank using the 24-hour toll-free line (1800-226-3320) if he feels that his blood is unsuitable for transfusion.

These processes ensure donors are aware of the implications of their answers on blood safety, and are given sufficient opportunities to be honest when answering the questionnaire.

Regular and potential blood donors should not be deterred from donating blood by the need to answer the questionnaire, but they should be truthful in their responses to the questions posed.

Medical personnel at the blood banks and blood mobiles will then assess their eligibility to donate blood. These steps help ensure the safety of our blood supply.

Finally, we thank all donors for their altruism and social responsibility in donating the gift of life, and encourage them to continue donating healthy and safe blood.

Ang Ai Leen (Dr)
Deputy Group Director
Blood Services Group
Health Sciences Authority
ST Forum, 23 May 2015

Enough checks on blood donors?

RECENTLY, a man was found to have made a false declaration when donating blood ("Blood donor jailed for giving false data"; Tuesday).

Given that the consequences can be very grave, are the present punishments and checks during blood donation adequate enough?

Imagine the shock recipients would feel when they find out that blood tainted with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was given to them.

It is tantamount to murder, albeit a potentially slow death.

Donors are not coerced into donating. The questionnaires are clear and the procedures are explained to them.

Those who are flippant when donating blood must be seriously taken to task. Each donor should be counselled individually and privately to avoid pressure from friends.

Kang Choon Tian
ST Forum, 14 May 2015

Blood donor jailed 15 weeks and fined $10,000 for false declaration
By Elena Chong, The Straits Times, 11 May 2015

An undergraduate who falsely declared that he had not had sex with another male when donating blood was jailed for 15 weeks and fined $10,000 on Monday.

The 23-year-old had pleaded guilty to the offence at Bloodbank@Dhoby Ghaut, Health Sciences Authority, at Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, on Dec 19, 2012.

He cannot be named due to a gag order.

Investigation showed that the defendant had declared that he had not "had sex with another male" when he in fact had been having a regular sexual relationship with a male partner since 2010. He also had sex with a male stranger sometime in December 2011 after a few drinks.

The blood he donated was found to be infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus or commonly known as HIV.

His lawyer Christine Sekhon had asked the court to consider a short detention order (SDO) for the young offender to minimise the stigma and disruption to his studies.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Lim said the SDO was entirely inappropriate in cases of this nature where the principles of general deterrence must apply because of issues of public health and safety.

He reiterated that the prosecution accepts the defendant's explanation that he donated blood only because he was asked at short notice by his two other friends to join them to donate blood.

The sentence of jail and fine sought by the prosecution, he said, should not be seen as the prosecution taking a more charitable approach to such offences. Indeed, if an accused person uses the blood donation procedure for cynical purposes such as blood testing, the prosecution will seek a significantly higher sentence.

To ensure that patients' lifelines are not compromised or jeopardised, he said the court must send the unequivocal, unmistakable and unambiguous message that the law does not, cannot, and will not be lenient with a person who is economical with the truth during blood donation, and who, in doing so, puts the nation's valuable blood supply at risk.

District Judge Lim Keng Yeow said it is patently obvious that it is irresponsible and reprehensible to lie concerning the questions posed to potential donors.

"Innocent persons who have to depend on donated blood should never be put in danger by what is administered to them. They and their families should never even be put in fear that the blood they receive could cause them grave harm rather than do them good," he said.

The maximum penalty for the offence is a $20,000 fine and two years' jail.

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