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Importance of voluntary blood donation

Safe blood and blood components transfusion is an important component of the modern healthcare system and most of the time, a life-saving one.

blood donation

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  1 Oct 2022 3:03 AM GMT

Dr Dharmakanta Kumbhakar

(The writer can be reached at drkdharmakanta@yahoo.com)

Safe blood and blood components transfusion is an important component of the modern healthcare system and most of the time, a life-saving one. In many major surgeries, emergency care of trauma patients, women with complications during pregnancy, severely anaemic women and children, cancer patients and persons suffering from sickle-cell anaemia, thalassemia, hemophilia, etc., safe blood/blood components transfusion is indispensable. Safe blood/blood components transfusion improves life expectancy and quality of life of patients suffering from life-threatening diseases.

In mass casualties caused by bomb blasts, gunshot injuries, road traffic accidents, natural calamities, etc., safe blood transfusion plays a vital role in the life-saving process. Transfusion of safe blood/blood components helps to save millions of lives every year worldwide.

Patients who require blood/blood components transfusion as a part of their clinical management have the right to expect that sufficient safe blood/blood components will be available to meet their needs. Safe blood/blood components transfusion comes under legal protection also as it is both life-saving and fundamental.

To transfuse the safest blood/blood components to needy patients, it is globally accepted that the best source of blood is from voluntary blood donations and preferably from voluntary non-remunerated blood donors. Voluntary non-remunerated blood donors donate blood or its components of their own free will and receive no payment, either in the form of cash or kind which could be considered a substitute for money. The only reward they receive is personal satisfaction, self-esteem and pride. The WHO advocates and recommends to its member states to develop national blood transfusion services based on voluntary non-remunerated regular blood donation in accordance with the World Health Assembly resolution adopted in 1975. The WHO's goal was for all countries to obtain all their blood supplies from voluntary donors by 2020. But, as on today, national blood supplies are based on 100 per cent voluntary blood donation in just 62 countries, with 40 countries, including India, still dependent on family blood donors and even paid blood donors. Even after 47 years of the World Health Assembly resolution, the issue of blood safety, equitable access to safe blood/blood components and their safe and rational use are still major challenges in our country.

In India, safe blood/blood components are constantly in high demand. Maintaining a constant reserve of safe and sufficient blood/blood components all the time is a big challenge for most of the blood centres in our country. Most of the time when a patient needs blood/blood components transfusion in India, a replacement blood donor from his/her family or a friend needs to donate blood/blood components. In some conditions where blood/blood components transfusion is required off and on, sometimes more than 100 units to a particular patient, then how can the family or friends bring all the required number of replacement blood donors? This gives rise to involvement of professional or paid blood donors disguised as replacement blood donors.

It is well established that paid blood donors constitute a group with high risk behaviour, leading to greater chances of transfusion transmissible infections in the recipients. The Indian Penal Code in Chapter XIV- Sections 269 and 270 protects against spread of infectious diseases due to negligent and malignant acts. The Supreme Court of India banned professional blood donation on January 1, 1998.

To maintain a safe and sustainable national blood/blood components supply to all those in need, healthy voluntary non-remunerated blood donors must come forward for voluntary blood donation. Without a regular flow of actual voluntary non-remunerated blood donors to keep the blood/blood components stocks sufficient, the delivery of safe blood/blood components in the right quantity at the right time can never be ensured. All we know is that, in spite of rapid and remarkable conquests of medical science today, no factory can manufacture blood/blood components. It is only in human beings that human blood/blood components are made and circulated. For those who require blood/blood components for saving their lives, getting the same from other fellow humans is the only means. If one per cent of the blood donation eligible population of India donates blood/blood components voluntarily, then India can meet its basic requirements for blood/blood components easily. In India, any healthy person aged 18 to 65 years having normal blood pressure, normal body temperature, weighs more than 45kg and has hemoglobin level of more than 12 gm/dL, can usually donate whole blood, although other limits apply to donations of plasma and platelets. For safety reasons, users of injectable drugs, carriers of transmissible infections (HIV, HBV, HCV, syphilis, malaria, etc.), recipients of organ transplants or recent blood transfusions can no longer be blood donors. As a rule, any healthy person can donate blood up to four times every year at an interval of three months. Plasma and platelets may be donated frequently.

For India, 100 per cent voluntary blood donation is not a magic figure. All the eligible blood donors of the country should come forward for voluntary blood donation so that any patient who needs blood/blood components transfusion can get the required safe blood/blood component units from the blood centres without replacement. The most precious gift that we humans can give each other is blood/blood components, a gift that can save lives and give a new lease of life to many people in need.

There are many ways to be a better human being and to serve mankind. Voluntary blood donation is said to be amongst the best services that a man can provide. Donating blood/blood components is a noble work. If someone really loves oneself and other fellow beings, one way to express it is to donate blood voluntarily.

Voluntary non-remunerated blood donors are saviours of mankind. Let all the eligible blood donors of the nation come forward on National Voluntary Blood Donation Day on October 1 and join in this heroic act of giving the precious gift of life, with a pledge to promote 100 per cent voluntary blood donation.

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