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Northern Ireland judge rules gay blood donation ban irrational

A Northern Ireland judge ruled [judgment summary] Friday that Health Minister Edwin Poots could not continue to enforce the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood, calling the law "irrational." The lifetime ban was introduced in the UK in the 1980s in an effort to prevent the spread of diseases that can be carried in blood. However, it has since been lifted in England, Scotland and Wales. This fact served as part of the reasoning Belfast High Court Judge Treacy used in determining that continuing to enforce the ban was irrational. Blood donations imported to Northern Ireland are not screened to determine who the blood came from. This, Treacy claims, represents a logical flaw in Poots' position. Great emphasis was also placed on the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) [official website] report [text, PDF], which concluded lifting the ban would not pose a risk to public safety. The judge ultimately held that Poots violated the ministerial code by enforcing the lifetime ban without consulting the Executive Committee. A spokesperson for the UK Department of Health [official website] says they will take the judgment into consideration in regards to a potential change in policy.

Bans on blood donations from homosexual individuals continue to garner much debate. In September the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] decided [World report] to continue the ban on gay blood donors. In September 2011 the UK, Scotland and Wales lifted [JURIST report] their lifetime bans. An Ontario Superior Court [official website] judge ruled in 2010 that the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is justified in prohibiting sexually active gay males from donating blood [JURIST report] on the grounds that the CBS discriminates on the basis of health and safety considerations rather than on sexual orientation. In March 2009 an Australian court upheld [JURIST report] an Australian Red Cross [organization website] policy to refuse blood donations from sexually active homosexual males.

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