Race restrictions for apheresis?
January 14, 2012 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Why would people of Hispanic descent be disallowed from donating blood products by apheresis?

A friend of mine recently went to donate blood products by apheresis, and was asked by the donation center's technician if he had any Hispanic ancestry. The explanation given by this tech was that Hispanics are more likely to have sickle cell disease, which he said can clog up the apheresis machines. I already know that sickle cell disease is more common in people of African descent, not Hispanics, so clearly this tech was misinformed as to the reasoning behind any restrictions.

I've googled and been unable to find anything that would indicate (a) that Hispanic blood clogs apheresis machines, (b) that blood from people with sickle cell disease clogs apheresis machines, (c) that there are any national guidelines related to race and apheresis. (The donation center in question is in the midwest of the U.S., if that matters.)

Does anybody know what might have been going on here?
posted by vytae to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm a regular whole blood donor and haven't heard anything like this. Why not call the blood center and ask?
posted by Carol Anne at 9:57 AM on January 14, 2012

Were they going to disallow someone of Hispanic descent or were they just collecting demographic information? I know that in blood donation they're usually looking for *more* Hispanic donors. A lot of Hispanic people are also partly of African descent, so they might be more likely to have sickle cell disease, though probably at a lower percentage than with people who ID as African-American, but that still seems really weird.
posted by mskyle at 10:02 AM on January 14, 2012

I've worked in donor recruitment at a blood bank for 5 years and this sounds really bizarre. You are correct - there are no strictly racial deferral guidelines (only travel/living abroad, which often has nothing to do with race). Additionally, as far as I'm aware, Sickle Cell trait is most common in African Americans, not Latinos. People who have Sickle Cell Anemia *know* because a Sickle Crisis is very painful and they often have to be hospitalized - they are usually receiving blood, not giving it.

I'd encourage your friend to call to talk to a manager to report the incident - sounds like the donor tech was really confused and needs to be re-educated.
posted by radioamy at 10:04 AM on January 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've donated whole blood and double red cells via apheresis a bunch of times and have never been asked this.
posted by drethelin at 10:05 AM on January 14, 2012

I'm guessing the friend misheard and/or the tech is mistaken. Saying that Hispanics are more likely to have Sickle Cell, is incorrect unless one is speaking specifically of a Afro-hispanic population, perhaps. Also, the thing about clogging the machine sounds made-up.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:09 AM on January 14, 2012

I am not sure why this is, but I know that every time I've donated blood (about 8 times or so), I've always been asked if I'm Hispanic. I do not have any known Hispanic ancestry, so I respond "no" and just continued with the regular donation process. All my blood donations were in Massachusetts and through the Red Cross.

I'm not sure if your friend was deferred or continued with donation, but either which way, they should have been given a sheet with a contact number. I would just call and ask if they can clarify, or to find out more about why questions about Hispanic ancestry are relevant to blood donation. Or you can call the Red Cross at: 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). I would call myself and ask, except that the touch screen on my phone broke, so I can't really dial out at the moment!
posted by raztaj at 10:25 AM on January 14, 2012

I'm a longtime donor of both whole blood and apheresis, through both the Red Cross and the local for-profit hospital system, and I've never encountered this kind of question or anything about someone's blood "clogging up the machine." Weird.

My vote is it was a rude or mistaken or hell, even a plain old-fashioned bigoted tech. Call the donation center and/or speak with the tech's supervisor.
posted by easily confused at 10:40 AM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

There isn't any Hispanic or Latino race, so this doesn't make sense to me. I'm what people would call Hispanic, but in reality all that means is that I have some native American ancestry (from Colombia) in addition to my European ancestry. There is nothing about the word "Hispanic" that indicates what race someone is or which genetic traits they are prone to, especially since plenty of people identify themselves with this label even though they are of unmixed African or European descent.

I understand the use of this label for social and political purposes, but it is unequivocally useless for any scientific or medical purposes.
posted by lali at 10:59 AM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

There isn't any Hispanic or Latino race

Hispanic literally means of Hispania, i.e. Spanish/Portuguese — though, yeah, nobody uses it like that.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:44 AM on January 14, 2012

Apparently, Hispanics are more likely to have type O blood than non-Hispanics, making their blood particularly desirable to blood banks.

Hispanics are also under-represented in the bone marrow donor registry, which is another reason you'd ask donors if they were Hispanic, so you could try and convince them to register.

But neither of those things are related to barring people from donation.

Coincidentally, did anyone else get porn while trying to google apheresis?
posted by hoyland at 11:47 AM on January 14, 2012

The only thing I can think of is that people with Latino/South American ancestry might be more likely to be carrying Chagas disease, which can be vertically transmitted. Here in Canada, people whose mothers or grandmothers were born in Mexico, or South or Central America are excluded from donating for this reason.
posted by greatgefilte at 1:39 PM on January 14, 2012

Midwest... hmm I'm just going to go with RACIST for 500, Alex. In NY, I've seen all types of groups give blood. Black, white, Latinos, Asians. This is totally a first I hear of it. Latinos are definitely not known for sickle cell, honestly, even "black" Latinos. The majority of African Americans do not have this disease either.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 8:44 PM on January 14, 2012

I don't know exactly where this friend was donating; he lives in another state and we aren't super close friends to begin with. I will pass on the advice to call the center and ask for clarification (and/or for that employee to be educated further). Thanks to everyone for the ideas.
posted by vytae at 11:13 AM on January 15, 2012

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