NI: Court of Appeal upholds blood donation ban
The Court of Appeal in Belfast has upheld a ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) donating blood in Northern Ireland.
The court determined Northern Ireland’s Health Minister is the correct person to make a decision on the appropriate deferral period from giving blood for MSM.
It also held that then Health Minister Edwin Poots had not acted with irrationality or bias in maintaining the status quo in 2011.
Northern Ireland has a lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men. It is allowed in England, Scotland and Wales where they have not had sex with another man for at least a year.
Last year, Health Minister Simon Hamilton hinted towards changing the policy if a government advisory group says there is no safety risk.
John O’Doherty, director of LGBT charity The Rainbow Project, said it was disappointed by the ruling.
Mr O’Doherty said: “Today’s judgment clarified that the issue of blood donations remains within the purview of the Northern Ireland Minster for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
“We would once again urge Minister Hamilton to accept the advice given by the experts in SABTO and adopt the one year deferral which exists in all other parts of the UK.
“This issue has been debated for over 5 years and tens of thousands of pounds of public funds have been spent on maintaining a lifetime ban. While the Minister may state that he has not yet made a decision, any right-thinking person would accept that 5 years is enough time to come to a decision.
“The evidence shows that allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood presents an infinitesimally small risk to the blood transfusion service and that maintaining this ban, without evidence to support it, sends the message that gay and bisexual men are inherently flawed. This must be remedied.”