Do blood banks share blood across borders?
October 4, 2014 1:51 PM   Subscribe

I am curious as to whether blood banks share blood across national boundaries. For example, do Canadian/Mexican blood banks have access to blood products in American blood banks, and vice versa?

The real question in my mind is how national blood donation policies (e.g., ban on gay males) of one country affect other countries.
posted by TheyCallItPeace to Law & Government (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No, blood donation and supplies are maintained at a national level and not shared internationally.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:04 PM on October 4, 2014

Yeah, absolutely not. There *might* be an exception in times of national emergency, but even that I wouldn't count on.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:33 PM on October 4, 2014

Best answer: Marrow and stem cell donations can be managed across borders, but that is a higher level product than mere blood or plasma, nasty expensive and takes 3-4 weeks to set up. Also cord blood units. So that may be an option for altruistic people in other countries.
FWIW, if a gay donor does end up on the American bone marrow registry-maybe he joined during a celibate period-and gets called as a donor, his sex life may not be an automatic disqualifier. The recipient patient may be informed of certain health risks in the donor and have the option to accept the donation or not. In advance of course.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:46 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I work in Australian blood transfusion laboratory. We once had a patient with a rare blood group who had blood flown from New Zealand for transfusion. I suppose it was feasible because of geographical proximity and perhaps because both countries have similar donation policies. In the back of my mind I feel like I may have heard of a similar case where blood came from the US. It is not a routine occurrence though.
posted by Naanwhal at 3:20 PM on October 4, 2014

Best answer: I'd heard from someone in the UK transfusion side that, post CJD, a lot of the UK supply comes from the US. But this was a few years ago.
posted by scruss at 4:28 PM on October 4, 2014

The world would be a better place if the above posters were right. See here, or if you don't trust Wikipedia (?!?), there's this link.
posted by kate4914 at 6:11 PM on October 4, 2014

Actually, in the US blood supplies are not even managed on a national level. There are different blood service organizations, contracted to serve various regions, such as the American Red Cross and United Blood Services. They are all overseen by the FDA. But to answer your question, no, blood products are not routinely sent internationally. There may be special exceptions as in the above NZ/Australia example, where specific patients can only accept very rare blood groups.

The history of blood banking is fascinating and fraught with controversy. There was a documentary several years ago called Red Gold that is pretty good and discusses the hepatitis/HIV issues, which were even more widespread than what is linked above. But basically, blood banking is a commercial enterprise in the US and that makes people evil bastards.

The specific issue of the ban on gay males comes up all the time as something that is unnecessary and discriminatory, but because of the lingering fear caused by incidents like the transmission of hepatitis C to haemophiliacs I doubt it will change any time soon.
posted by Missense Mutation at 7:56 PM on October 4, 2014

It certainly can be, assuming that the blood bank selling the blood maintains the same or stricter standards than the blood bank buying, but it's not common. There is an international labeling standard for blood products. The blood bank that I worked at switched over to ISBT a few years ago. AFAIK all blood banks in the US use ISBT (there is a ton of transfer of blood between US blood banks, mostly facilitated by AABB) and there are ISBT-compliant facilities all over the world.

Missense Mutation brings up a good point about the weird blood banking industry. IMHO a bigger concern than gay men is the American Red Cross's horrendous safety record.

Oh and if you want to get technical, the ban you mention isn't on "gay men" but on "men who have had sex with men since 1977." I'm not saying I support this ban but that's what they call it.
posted by radioamy at 9:46 PM on October 4, 2014

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