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2009
8 March
Over 90% of Population to Receive Unsafe Blood?
It has been revealed that NHS patients who eat meat may be banned from receiving the safest blood supplies in order to halt the spread of variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (vCJD). Only vegetarians and children under the age of sixteen who need transfusions would get imported blood, which the Government believes is free of vCJD.

The suggestion was apparently made as long ago as last year by the Government's advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SABTO) and was apparently put forward as a result of the growing concern that contaminated blood from UK donors could lead to a second wave of infection.

According to the minutes of SABTO meetings from an unknown date last year, experts are considering this move as a: "risk reduction option" to ensure safer blood supplies for those who are less likely to have been exposed to vCJD in the 1990s, if the measures: "could not be applied to all recipients on the grounds of feasibility or cost-effectiveness." The blood would be sourced from countries where there has been no outbreak of vCJD in an attempt to reduce the risk of importing infected blood. However, this would not guarantee safety as Britain does not currently test blood for the presence of vCJD. According to the Government, a test of this kind is thought to be about a year away.

The population of the United Kingdom is approximately 61,000,000, of which only 5-10% is known to be vegetarian. Not all of these will have been vegetarian for life and will therefore have eaten meat at some stage. This means that at least 90% of the population would not receive "safer blood".

Comment:

  • We are appalled that, once again, history appears to be repeating itself. First of all, it is alarming that this issue of patient safety should only be brought to our attention by the press, particularly in light of the recent death of a Haemophiliac with vCJD, contracted from contaminated NHS blood.
  • At present, white cells and plasma are imported from America for this very reason, and yet we know that cases of vCJD have been identified in America, so we would pose the question: 'If the Government is prepared to accept this risk now, how can we guarantee safe imports in future?'
  • SABTO's proposals include plans to protect the under sixteens - the babies and children. Again, history seems to be repeating itself, as a similar ruling was in place when Colin Smith was given imported blood at two years of age. He went on to die of AIDS aged just seven.
  • We believe that it is perfectly possible to accurately test donated blood for vCJD now, and that the Government is employing dangerous delaying tactics, as they did with Hepatitis C, with cataclysmic results.
  • Even if these proposals never reach fruition, we would question the integrity of a Government advisory committee that discusses the health of our nation with such utter disregard for the past and such a shameful dismissal of our future. We believe that the government are putting cost-effectiveness before patient safety.
Source: Additional Sources:
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Type: Media Article - Beezy Marsh & Jo Macfarlane, The Mail on Sunday, March 8th 2009
Location: UK
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