All that you wanted to know about Voluntary Blood Donation
Dr. Dharmakanta Kumbhakar
Blood is considered to be an essential element and the living force of human life. Nothing is comparable to the preciousness of human blood. Blood and blood components transfusion is an important component of the modern healthcare system. In many major surgeries, emergency care of trauma patients, women with complications during pregnancy, severely anemic women and children, cancer patients; persons suffering from sickle-cell anemia, thalassemia, hemophilia and many life threatening diseases require blood/blood components transfusions. It improves life expectancy and quality of life of patients suffering from life-threatening conditions. In mass casualties, blood transfusions play a vital role in the life saving process. Transfusion of blood/blood components helps to save millions of lives every year.
In spite of rapid and remarkable conquests of medical science today, there is no factory that can manufactures blood. It is only in human beings that human blood is made and circulated. For those who require blood for saving their lives, sharing from other fellows is the only means. Presently, the blood centers of India operate on a replacement basis i.e. if a patient needs blood transfusion, his family or friends should find a replacement donor for him. In some conditions where blood transfusion is required off and on, sometimes more than 100 units for a particular patient, how can the family or friends can bring all the required number of replacement donors? This gives rise to the involvement of professional or paid donors who comes disguised as replacement donors.
It is well established that paid donors constitute a group with high risk behaviors leading to greater chances of transfusion transmissible infections in the recipients. The Indian Panel Code chapter XIV, sections 269 and 270 provide protection against spread of infectious diseases due to negligent and malignant acts. The Supreme Court of India has banned paid blood donation since January 1, 1998. Moreover, there are frequent incidences of mass casualties in India during bomb blasts, gunshot injuries, road traffic accidents and natural calamities etc., which require emergency massive blood transfusion and create a crisis of safe blood. If our blood centers do not have enough blood stocks, what will be the fate of these victims? Maintaining a constant reserve of safe and sufficient blood all the time is a big challenge for most of the blood centres in India.
The quantity and quality of blood pool available for transfusions is still a major concern across the globe, especially in the developing countries. Over 92 millions units of blood are donated around the world each year, helping to save the lives of people. But alarmingly, only 32% of these units are collected in developing countries in which 82% of the global population lives. According to the World Health Organization, Southeast Asia's estimated blood requirement is about 16 million units per year, but it collects just about 9.4 million units annually, leaving a gap of 6 million units. India has 2,433 blood banks that can collect 9 million units of blood annually, but collects only 7 million.
To transfuse the safest blood to the needy patients, it is globally accepted that the best source of blood is from voluntary donations (VBD) and preferably from repeated voluntary donors. Hence, blood donation – rather regular voluntary blood donation is the only way of accumulating blood at safe storage to meet the emergency requirements for saving lives. The WHO advocates and recommends to its member States to develop national blood transfusion services based on voluntary non-remunerated regular blood donation. This is in accordance with the World Health Assembly resolution 28.72, adopted in 1975. The WHO’s goal is for all countries to obtain all their blood supplies from voluntary donors by 2020. So far today, in just 62 countries, national blood supplies are based on 100% VBD, with 40 countries like India still dependent on family donors and even paid donors. In our country, the national level of VBD is about 70%. States like Tripura, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra have more than 95% of VBD, while Assam has about 57% only. After 42 years of World Health Assembly resolution 28.72; the issue of blood safety, equitable access to safe blood/blood components and their safe and rational use are still remaining as major challenges in India.
In India, safe blood is constantly on high demand and blood banks face challenges while making sufficient blood available. To maintain a safe and sustainable supply of blood and blood components to all those in need, voluntary non-remunerated regular blood donors (VNRBD) should come forward for VBD. Without a regular flow of real voluntary blood donors, delivery of good quality blood/blood components in the right quantity at the right time can never be ensured.
Blood donation by 1% of the population can meet India’s most basic requirements for blood. People from every section of society should come together and join hands to formulate strategies to achieve 100% VBD, so that any patient who needs blood/blood components transfusion can get the required blood/blood component units from the blood centers without replacement.
The most precious gift that we humans can give each other is the donation of blood, a gift that can save lives and give a new lease of life to many persons in need. Donating blood is a noble work and it gives opportunity to the youth to directly connect with social issues of the area where they live. Timely provisions of quality blood also gives life to many and make them happy. There are many ways to be a better human and to serve the mankind. Blood donation is said to counted amongst the best services that a man can do. Donating blood means giving life to someone and it is believed that voluntary blood donors command the highest respect for their sacrifice. VNRBD donates blood or its components of his or her own free will and receives no payment, either in the form of cash or in kind which could be considered a substitute for money. The only reward they receive is personal satisfaction, self-esteem and pride. They are saviors of mankind.
In India, any healthy person aged between 18 to 65 years old and having weight more than 45kg and hemoglobin level more than 12 gm % can usually donate whole blood, although other limits apply to donations of plasma and platelets. For safety reasons, users of injectable drugs, carrier of transmissible infections (HIV, HBV, HCV, Syphilis and Malaria etc.), recipients of organ transplants or transfusion cannot be blood donors. As a rule, at the interval of 03 months, any healthy person can donate blood up to 04 times per year. Plasma and platelet may be donated frequently. If someone really loves oneself and other fellow beings, the only way to express it, is to donate blood voluntarily. This is the greatest gift one can do for mankind.