ALLIANCE Health Spokesperson Kieran McCarthy MLA has expressed disgust that Health Minister Edwin Poots is refusing to lift a ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, saying his refusal is disgraceful.
Kieran McCarthy MLA said, “I am extremely annoyed that Edwin Poots is not going to lift a ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. It is disgraceful that he is refusing to lift this ban. What sort of message does this send out?
“We must have a society based on fairness and this refusal to lift this ban is deeply troubling. This refusal sets a very worrying precedent.
“The Health Minister should be encouraging more people to give blood instead of maintaining this despicable ban.”
However, in the wrangle over medical issues and ethics, there has been a strong public response to this ministerial decision. In a statement from the Minister to Down News, Minister Edwin Poots said, “This is a complex area. Blood-borne infections, well-recognised or as yet undiscovered, have the potential to destroy healthy lives. Public safety must be my primary concern, and I want the Northern Ireland public to have maximum confidence in our blood supply.
“Britain is set to become the first place in Europe to remove the lifetime ban specifically for men who have sex with other men. Italy and Spain have time-limited deferrals for anyone engaging in high risk sexual behaviour while all other EU countries continue to operate a lifetime ban. The United States and Canada also operate life bans.”
This issue may rumble on for a while but the liberal views of the Alliance Party have challenged what many would see as more illiberal views often expressed from the DUP regarding gay and bisexual people. Internationally there is evidence to suggest that on medical grounds many countries are taking the side of caution.