Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Blood work

I read with some dismay this post by Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting yesterday on the issue of allowing gay blood donors.

Nothing against Jeff you understand - he makes in point in an articulate and structured way, using statistics to back up his argument. He even quotes Ross Finnie in opposition to his own argument - which, in most cases, would be sufficient for me to support him. However, not this time.

This remains [one of the] last example[s] of official discrimination and not only is it outdated it is morally wrong. The idea that we might face a shortage in blood - and that people might die - because we refuse to accept the blood of homosexuals is simply wrong. Its also hypocritical - the Blood Transfusion Service import blood from Australia where donation of blood from gay men is permitted - to cover the shortfall. Is there something inherently wrong with the blood of gay men over here but not in Australia?

I might be opening myself up to criticism of hypocrisy given my less than enthusiastic support for the Hate Crimes Bill currently in the Scottish Parliament - the sentiment of which I have no problem with - yet wholeheartedly support this proposal. I think it is more inconsistent to argue for the Bill but against this, but if you think I'm wrong (Jeff) I'm sure you'll let me know.

I have many gay friends. I lived with two gay guys when I was at uni. When one - and it was always the same one - brought a guy home we'd wind him up the same as if any of my other flatmates had brought a girl home. He used to complain that, despite his father being ill and requiring blood, he was not allowed to give blood - in spite of how much care he took with the men he was with.

On this, I agree with Stephen Glenn (another Lib Dem - bad day for me!) when he says that a blanket ban based on sexual orientation rather than sexual practise - where the real risk lies - is bizarre. In the same way that you increase your risk of lung cancer by smoking, you increase your risk of an STD by having unprotected sex. Your sexual preference in either case is not relevent.

Another healthy debate on the blogosphere - I look forward to some strong opinions.


Stephen Glenn 16 April 2008 at 11:33  

Nowt wrong with agreeing with other parties or their representatives occasionally occasionally Malc. I remember at the hustings for the last General Election agreeing with each of my 4 opponents on at least one issue that was raised from the floor. I don't think there is room to have 5 or more totally different perspectives on every issue. After all I found myself defending the principle if not the SNP scheme of implimentation of LIT with one of West Lothian's Labour councillors before the football on Saturday.

I'm a little ashamed at how little media coverage this story actually got over the last few days though.

Malc 16 April 2008 at 12:06  

I don't have any problem agreeing with other parties. It is just that agreeing with Lib Dems is something I'm not that used to - since Lib Dems don't tend to pick a side on issues!

I agree that the media coverage has been remarkably thin... but did we expect anything more?

Stephen Glenn 16 April 2008 at 13:23  

I was expecting some homophobic outcry at least, that I could get my teeth into. But the only stuff I can find like that is in comments posted to the news stories themselves.

Mind you I'm considering contributing my latest part of the debate.

Jeff 16 April 2008 at 14:10  

If I can wade into the debate once more...

After careful consideration of your post I think the crux of the matter can be pinned to a couple of key phrases:

"official discrimination" and "morally wrong"

Yes, it is official discrimination to deny men the opportunity to give blood but the moral justification stems from the decision being based on science, facts and figures and not based on an ugly, naked dislike for a certain minority grouping.

This, in my view, stops the decision being "morally wrong".

Preventing gay/black/disabled people from drinking in a bar or working in certain jobs or joining certain golf clubs would also be discriminatory. And it would also be morally wrong.

The ban on blood donation from gay people is based on scientific facts calculated and generated by the unbiased scientific officers working for the Blood Transfusion Service.

And to counter your "I have many gay friends" line (it was only a matter of time before someone pulled that one out the bag!), I opened my living room up to two gay strangers who slept on my couches one night during the festival last year. This was via the couchsurfing.com website.

I just thought I'd mention that in case this became a 'who is more gay-friendly than who' contest.

Not that I think that's what you were getting at. As I said on my own blog, I sympathise with Stephen, and also your ex-flatmate, but i personally think they both have to appreciate that it is cold hard statistics that needs to shape the rules rather than emotion.

As I say, if it's not broke, don't fix it.

PS I've not heard or know anything about blood shortages or 'buying in' from Australia but if that is the case, or will be in the future, then I would be perfectly content to change the rules if the risk of blood shortages outweighed the general (and undeniable) increased risk of allowing gay men to donate

This Is Alba 16 April 2008 at 14:36  

US interns are shocked! Apparantly America is ahead of us in at least one field...

Malc 16 April 2008 at 14:42  

The point of my saying "I have gay friends" was not to make me sound un-homophobic but to illustrate that I know from first hand experience how much this issue annoys them - that is, them in particular.

Your last point about blood shortages I think actually is the crux of the matter. I don't agree that gay men are an increased risk. I think irresponsible gay men are an increased risk certainly - but I think irresponsible hetrosexual men and women are as much of a risk.

For the avoidance of confusion, I use the term "irresponsible" to describe those who have unprotected sex without knowing the sexual history of their partner.

I'd also take issue with your categorisation that if something is based on "science" then it cannot be morally wrong. I don't necessarily agree, but wouldn't some argue that stem-cell research - with its basis firmly in science" - is morally wrong?

Just a thought.

Stephen Glenn 16 April 2008 at 15:01  

Agree with a lot of your last comment there Malc. Sometimes pure scientific fact is not enough of an argument.

I've delved a little deeper into why the simple facts do not in this instance necessarily convey the full story in my latest posting.

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