Poots’ blood ban scientifically and medically sound. (Even if accepting blood from Britain is not.)

I don’t have strong views one way or the other on the recent judgement against the local health Minister. On one level, what’s wrong with levelling up with the rest of the UK? However, as Kilsally has pointed out in the past, the UK position is the exception rather than the rule.

In fact the Irish Blood Transfusion Service goes out of its way to explain why it is not a discriminatory practice based on identity but based on the risk attached to actions:

In order to assure the continued safety of the blood supply, we currently ask those people who may have a particularly high risk of carrying blood-borne viruses not to give blood.  This includes men who have ever had sex with another man / men. The reason for this exclusion rests on specific sexual behaviour (such as anal and oral sex).  The decision is not based on sexuality or orientation, only specific actions.

In fact, Ireland remains where most western countries are. Yet there has been some movement towards a one year deferral rather than a lifetime ban in countries like Italy and Spain.

As John notes a large part of the judicial review’s findings against Poots was based on a Wednesbury test of unreasonableness. This is based on the observation that blood collected in the rest of the UK under the new rules is accepted by the NHS in Northern Ireland, which the judge finds incompatible with the Minister’s stand against the contraction of a lifetime ban to a 12 month deferral.

Yet, as Newton Emerson points out in his Irish News column today, the Minister has a perfectly good scientific reason for sticking with lifetime ban.

When Britain replaced its lifetime ban with a 12 month deferral in 2011, the government took a remarkable cavalier attitude to the risk as presented by its own scientific advisory committee.

The committee had calculated that a five year deferral period would increase the risk of HIV getting into the blood supply by five per cent, so it recommended a ten-year deferral to cut that risk by half.

Now it has to be said that even that a five per cent [increase in current levels] risk is very low on current figures.

But the point is clear enough, that mediation of risk has in this case, a scientific base. The Minister’s ‘decision’ to stick with the lifetime ban (whatever his motivation) is highly defensible, even if his decision to keep on taking higher risk blood supplies from Britain is not.