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'There are so many selfless acts, why is donating blood different?'


Student nurse, Adam Roxby, has been exploring what it means to give blood

Recently I donated blood for the 10th time and was given a rather snazzy badge and a certificate for my troubles.

This got me thinking about donating blood and the ethos behind it. Blood donation is organised through the National Blood Service, and while they have had shortages of stock, they have never actually run out of blood.

This is due to the altruistic acts carried out by so many people across the country. These people donate a bit of their time and endure minimal amounts of discomfort to help save the lives of people they most likely will never meet.

I choose to give blood for slightly selfish reasons; I enjoy the sense of satisfaction I get from knowing that I’ve done something completely selfless and beneficial. It goes back to the old argument that there is no such thing as a truly altruistic action. I’m fine with that, but I have often thought that giving blood should be semi-compulsory. A form of national service if you will, in which every person who leaves secondary school should be required to attend one at least donation session.

Obviously there will have to be exceptions to this. A whole host of medical or ethical and religious reasons may make you chose not to donate, or you may be unable to donate, and if people have a genuine phobia of needles then it would be unthinkable to force them to partake.

While talking to some of my fellow students I thought they would be in broad agreement with my idea. Partly because many of them have advanced in their studies to see where the blood is used and how vital it is to so many procedures. However, not only did a large amount of them not give blood when they were able to they didn’t think that it should be something more compulsory.

This made me re-evaluate my thinking on the matter and I began to question the very nature of what it is to be a part of society.

We will partake in activities which don’t directly benefit us but instead improve society as a whole. A huge amount of effort goes into protecting the environment which the current generation may not benefit from, scientists dedicate their lives to increasing the cumulative knowledge of humanity to bring about advances to future generations and as a country we donate vast amounts of money and resources to impoverished people across the world. Every time a natural disaster occurs we immediately feel connected to these people and generously try to help their situation.

So what is it about donating blood that is different?

I’m curious to know what you think. Different people donate blood and other parts of themselves for different reasons, and for every reason to donate there are just as many valid reasons not to.

I will continue to wear the plaster over my puncture site with pride and hope that people will join me. However, everyone is different and I am looking forward to the discussion.


Readers' comments (12)

  • Adam,

    I agree with you, although I will not be able to give blood myself due to receiving a transfusion that saved my life.

    I have spent many a fruitless time trying to convince various people, including my own family and boyfriend, that giving blood is one of the most wonderful things a person can do for someone else. I have only managed to get one person to give blood out of at least 100 I have asked.

    I haven't got to the bottom of why people don't want to donate and probably never will.

    So even the realisation that I would have died without a transfusion is not enough to convince those who could donate.

    I just wish I had donated before receiving my transfusion as, six years down the line, I desperately want to be able to help someone the way someone else helped me.


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  • I wish i could give blood, but I don't weigh enough

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  • Adam Roxby

    Hello Verity

    Thanks for your comments. My mother shares your frustration as she got herself really excited and anxious about giving blood for the first time only to find out that her veins were not really suitable. Part of me thinks she was quite relieved not to have to go through the door but on the other hand she would have really liked to have been involved.

    You may feel frustrated that you can't give blood but I think what you're doing is fantastic. How do you feel about organ donation?

    Anyway thank you once again and I hope my future articles will get the same positive response. Before I leave you, I was encouraged by the fact that we have never run out of blood which I a tribute not only to the people giving blood but also the many other people who encourage others to go along to donation sessions and put a lot of time into the advertising and publicity.

    It all helps

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  • well done for brining this debate to the arena!
    For me donation is a choice for us all to make while we are fit and well. Their is no right or wrong answer but we should not sit on the fence, Yes or no we need to act on our decisions and do something about it while we can. Either in life by seeing if we can give blood - good if we can but if we can't at least we have tryed and if we wish to donate organs and tissues on our death inform our families and friends so that the wish that we have made in life can be facilitated, If we do not want to donate in anyway at least we have all made an informed choice and our family will be able to inform the health care professional if we die in a place were the option is given to them.
    People raising the profile like you both professionally and personally are just what the NHS needs
    Thanks !

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  • Adam Roxby


    Thank you for your comment. I am inclined to agree with you. There is an element of civic duty and help your fellow human and all that. So many people benefit from the generosity of others that I would feel guilty if I didn't try to do what I could. 

    I understand it must be hard for people who want to but cant but as I have already written, raising the profile of giving blood and other forms of donation all helps. 

    Do you think we reached saturation especially in blood donation? Would you say most people know the benefits by now?

    I'm interested to find out. 

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  • In the current climate, I believe that it would be difficult to get to a point of saturation. We will never be able to estimate the need of blood and platlets needed so supplies ,awareness and any amount of health promotion is necessary even amoungst health care professionals.The benifits are huge, life saving and life enhansing so the more we can do the educate and promote can only be a good thing - its sustainabilitly thats needed to ensure a constant supply to maintain those stocks.
    I think more could be done to inform of the benifits and let every one know how simple it is to be a blood donor- if thats what you want and can do.

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  • Some of us are prevented from donating blood due to our sexuality.

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  • Adam Roxby

    Hello to the two Anonymous commentaries.

    Firstly, I think you are right. It would be impossible to reach total saturation but I think the level we have the moment is good. However you can't let up on the amount of advertising and educating. I do think there is a slight lack of knowledge of the actual process of giving blood and what actually happens.
    The adverts on TV focus on who wouldn't be here without a vital blood donation. Still a good angle to take but more could be done.

    In relation to the second comment, you are of course right. Some of my best friends would be unable to take part in giving blood because of their sexuality. I simply don't know what the risk is for people of different sexuality's giving blood so couldn't really comment on that. It could be overly cautious but then I am aware that this blood is often going to some of the most vulnerable people in hospitals.

    Would a persons sexuality prohibit them from donating other blood components? What about organs?

    I am pleased with the comments and support that has come from this article.

    I lok forward to talking to you soon and of course responding to your comments.

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  • Anonymous | 8-Jun-2011 4:21 pm

    what does sexuality have to do with donating blood?

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  • Adam Roxby

    Hello there.

    According to the National Blood Service, they state that they have a duty to "minimise the risk of a blood transfusion transmitting an infection to patients".

    To this end they currently have the policy to "ask those in groups shown to have a particularly high risk of carrying blood-borne viruses not to give blood. This includes men who have ever had sex with men, with this exclusion resting on specific sexual behaviour (such as oral or anal sex between men) rather than sexuality. There is, therefore, no exclusion of gay men who have never had sex with a man, nor of women who have sex with women".

    As I said, i don't know if this is overly cautious or not but that's how it stands at the moment.

    Thank you for your comment.

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