The Catholic Thing
The Right to Give Blood? Print E-mail
By Matthew Hanley   
Saturday, 28 September 2013

I don’t remember precisely when I learned that I was ineligible to donate blood.  Somewhere along the line I was informed that, on account of the time I’d spent in Africa – it could have been after Kenya, Nigeria, or South Africa – I was excluded as a potential blood donor.

Actually, I hadn’t really given the whole matter much thought – meaning that, perhaps to my discredit, I had not really been chomping at the bit to give blood. But since Malaria and AIDS, inter alia, are so prevalent in those countries, it’s not difficult to grasp why I would not be an ideal donor.  I didn’t take it personally, but as objectively justified caution. On the flip side, I should add, I was relieved – for obvious reasons – that I myself didn’t need any sort of emergency transfusion while in those countries. 

These same types of restrictions also apply to those who have spent extensive (or even accumulated) periods of time in other regions – including Europe. “Better safe than sorry,” is the operative principle for many organizations and potential blood recipients usually agree.

But not everyone.  The mayor of Campbell, California (in the heart of Silicon Valley) recently gave vent to his consternation that he, like all other gay men, is not allowed to donate his blood. And guess what? His social-media appeal to have such a ban lifted has, to judge by the fawning support in our local news outlets, taken off like gangbusters.

If you are wondering what, in the wake of the “gay marriage” project, may be the next taboo to topple – incest?, polygamy? – “discriminatory” blood donation policy is already in play.

To give the mayor the benefit of the doubt, I suppose his argument would not be that anyone and everyone should be allowed to give blood, but that the ban should not apply if any particular individual can meet the requisite criteria.

This is not the place to specify in numbing detail the well-grounded reasons behind current blood policy; suffice to say, however, that no car insurance company would accept the same sort of argument from the young male-driver demographic. No matter how persuasively any one young male can demonstrate that he is not personally a reckless driver, it would not offset the overall trends upon which premiums are impersonally based.

Apparently the Red Cross had asked the mayor to help coordinate a blood drive. But doing so was, he said, “like hosting a party you're not invited to.

Where to begin? First, the whole endeavor is should be about the needs of recipient, rather than boosting the ego of the donor, right? A blood drive is not the place to assert your view of “equality” – or worse, to exercise your “rights.” The narcissism evident in the mayor’s comment is the very antithesis of what blood drives are all about.

But really, why do we need to respect the peace of mind of the blood recipient if the peace of mind of, say, photographers can be trampled upon should they balk at being enlisted to recognize “gay marriage” – an ontological and anthropological impossibility?

Objective reality is the enemy in both cases – even, curiously, among those who supposedly extol objective science above all else. Only those in fact nursing other, baser priorities could claim that scientific blood safety judgments, directed towards the common good, are “discrimination.”

Man, alas, does not live by reason alone; honesty entails recognizing that it is usually not the science itself, but how it is interpreted, that is so hotly contested. The sparring revolves around prior commitments flowing from that which lies at the root of all culture: religion, in one form or another. That was already clear in ancient pagan thought.

Aristotle on abortion is an interesting case in point. He specified that abortion should not be permitted after a certain stage of pregnancy.  Some have suggested, therefore, that if only Aristotle had been equipped with the unequivocal findings of modern embryology, he would have certainly been opposed to all abortion.

But Matthew Lu, writing earlier this year in the International Philosophical Quarterly (“Aristotle on Abortion and Infanticide”), makes the case that we should not be so easily convinced.  Noting that the West is “deeply indebted to Aristotle,” he also contends that there must be more to this particular question, given that Aristotle seems to have accepted uncritically the prevailing Greek cultural practice of infanticide via exposure. (Not only did he did not condemn infanticide categorically, he maintained that “deformed” babies should not be afforded protection and felt the state had a role to play in regulating the population).

It was his acceptance of this prevailing cultural norm rather than ignorance of embryology that shaped his view on the matter; the science, in other words, would not have made the difference.  Only seeing the human person in a particular way can.

Lu concludes: “as much as our moral thought is indebted to him, the contemporary world has also been shaped by a revolution in the understanding of the human person that has transformed the very foundations of our moral worldview.” By revolution he means “the rise of Christianity whose transformative effects on Western morality can be recognized wholly independently from the question of the truth of its religious claims.”

The growing repudiation of what has been the civilizing difference has led some to maintain that modern day neo-paganism is more virulent than the ancient variety. That, I suppose, is an open question. But human blood, to judge from how much has been spilled on the neo-pagan’s watch, has never really been something they hold in high regard.

Matthew Hanley is senior fellow with the National Catholic Bioethics Center. With Jokin de Irala, M.D., he is the author of Affirming Love, Avoiding AIDS: What Africa Can Teach the West, which recently won a best-book award from the Catholic Press Association. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Hanley's and not those of the NCBC. 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (13)Add Comment
written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, September 28, 2013
Yes, it is a matter of perspective. In his Commentaries on the Law of Scotland, Respecting Crimes, published in 1797, David Hume (the nephew of the philosopher), the leading “Institutional Writer” on criminal law says, “A child, though it has become quick, is regarded as pars viscerum matris and not a separate being and it cannot with any certainty be said whether it would have been born alive or not. The destruction of an unborn infant, therefore, though an atrocious crime and severely punishable under a different denomination is not murder... “

The influence of Roman law is obvious. “Pars viscerum matris,” comes from Ulpian’s discussion of custody cases, “the child is part of the woman or her insides before it is born. After the child is born, the husband can legally demand the boy from the woman by using an interdict or have the child exhibited to him or be allowed to lead him away...” [D.]. That he cannot demand separation before birth is hardly worth saying. Likewise, the uncertainty about whether a child will be born alive or not reflects Pomponius’s discussion of the sale of an unborn child (partus) [D. 18. 1.8 pr], which he treats as a conditional purchase (emptio rei speratae); the risk remains with the seller and the contract is void, if the child is still-born.

These texts, taken out of context, are the reason why most Christian countries treated abortion as a separate offence from murder.
written by DeGaulle, September 28, 2013
" car insurance company would accept the same sort of argument from the young male-driver demographic.":

Alas, Mr Hanley, this common sense policy no longer exists within the European Union, so it may be about to repeat itself in your country soon, perhaps involving the issues you mention. Our European legal geniuses have dictated that young male drivers must be offered the same insurance premiums as young women no matter what the statistics say about the carnage they cause. To do otherwise would be to discriminate against them. Sane people know that discrimination in all things is rather wise, but our procrustian,utopian elites are catastrophically convinced that 'equality', one of Satan's greatest ruses, trumps everything. We had better start storing our own blood.
written by Sandra, September 28, 2013
And that is why in the mid 1980s, after having had a miscarriage in early 1982 (it was twins, barely 3 months) and requiring some blood to be put back into me... I went nearly a decade wondering if I might have an incurable deadly disease.

NO ONE HAS A RIGHT to donate blood, or other body parts or tissue/organs if that person MIGHT POSSIBLY HAVE A DISEASE THAT WILL KILL A RECIPIENT !
written by WSquared, September 28, 2013
"A blood drive is not the place to assert your view of “equality” – or worse, to exercise your “rights.”"

What about MY rights to not have tainted blood resulting from someone's narcissistic "choices"? What happens when they themselves are at the mercy of, well, blood-bank roulette?

"Objective reality is the enemy in both cases – even, curiously, among those who supposedly extol objective science above all else."

Not curious at all, really, but as you point out, "supposedly" is the key operative word: there's a difference between actually knowing science (which, epistemologically, involves acknowledging its limits, as with any other discipline, because it simply asks certain kinds of questions but not others), as opposed to using it, abusing it, and worshiping it. Which is essentially utilitarian reductionism.

Most people never get beyond mere utility or convenience, believing both to be "realism" somehow devoid of the potential to truncate and fragment the human person.
We see this all the time whenever students who major in the liberal arts and the humanities are somehow deemed "less intelligent" than those who major in the sciences and in mathematics. The fact that "Ph.D." stands for "Doctor of Philosophy" suggests that the knowledge fostered and nurtured by every discipline begs further questions of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and logic.

Moreover, anyone who has gone far enough in, say, mathematics for it to actually be hard (knowing how the bits and pieces fit together and why is a whole other ballgame and far more demanding than just manipulating those bits and pieces) knows that the discipline does not exist exclusively or primarily to be of mere "use" to anyone, and involves far more than what "works."
written by Jack,CT, September 28, 2013
Mr Hanley,
I am in total agreement.
I however find the "Leap" that the
prohibition reversal" attempts are
related to "Incest or any other
horrible thing is just silly!
I as a person of Medical Science
and Catholic can apreciate the "Ban"
based on "SCIENCE" alone.
I also aprciate any person who wants to
help there fellow man.
The homeless at a time not so long ago
would donate there "Booze and drug soaked"
blood for a "Couple of dollars" not so long
I can recall a few years ago being approached by
an obvious Mentally Ill woman at the "American
Red Cross' demanding to donate her blood for "Nine
Dollars",and there was no telling her that "Comp-
ensation" no longer existed!
I remember thinking how complicated and multi DX
she was and how 'I would rather die than get her blood",
so I understand the "Stigma' and the "fears' but where
does it end? Do we stop accepting blood from sergeons
who we know have hepatitis signs up to 30% from all the
exposure to blood?

Perhaps with all the advances in "Blood testing" we should

presume ALL BLOOD infected with a STD untill tested other
I truly feel education is still the key as AIDS and other
STDs are non discrimanatory.
It is nt 1982! We have come a long way in DE Stigmatizing
this and the mayor may have a point.
written by Ernest Miller, September 28, 2013

The mayor may have a point; are you kidding?
written by Lisa Andrews, September 28, 2013
I hereby join the "anemics for equality" blood donation activists. What? They don't exist (yet)? So when I was told many years ago that my blood would not help the health of those in need, I was supposed to be offended. Wow. What a waste of years of potential indignant superiority...
written by Jack,CT, September 29, 2013
@Lisa, if you read the Article
it would apply to you if you
were Gay only.
written by Jack,CT, September 29, 2013
Yes, The mayor has a point..."
written by Lisa Andrews, September 30, 2013
@Jack, point taken. However, if you read the same article, you would note that Mr. Hanley was denied the option to donate blood simply because he had been to an area that statistically shows he was at risk of contracting maralia and AIDS. He was not diagnosed as a carrier of those diseases, but accepted the general wisdom of "Better safe than sorry" for the good of society. Why is the same wisdom not applicable for a community that has statistically shown a higher than average infection rate of the AIDS virus? It is not singling out a population as a judgment of moral character, but for a scientifically established correlation. If there is a test to ensure that a specific donor is free from an infectious virus (not just pre-symptomatic), then they should be allowed to donate. Just as Mr. Hanley and thousands of others should be able to donate after testing negative for malaria, healthy gay men should be able to donate. But is adding a test and the requisite waiting period economically feasible and practical? Perhaps our medical technology will allow that in the near future. In the meantime, "Better safe than sorry".
written by Maria Tierney Koehn, September 30, 2013
Hello Mr. Hanley and readers,

Boy, can you hear God whispering through this. Great Article Mr. Matthew Hanley. Giving blood is about the recipient just like marriage is about the innocent recipient; the child.

Healthy Blood and living a life that does not endanger it helps others. There is just so much that could be said about each sin and how sin effects us what it comes to is the need for for the Sacrificial Blood of The Lamb. Jesus. Just looking at the seven deadly sins that destroys grace; wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony should give us pause.

One must think of the needs of the family first and always place needs above wants.

What one should take into marriage is their love, their complimentary body to their mate and an openness to life. Matrimony (matri (Latin) = mother and monium in the action of making (thanks Dr. Taylor Marshall for blogging about this) )putting into action the making of a mother at the ceremony with the exchange of words to her groom. The I do with the complementary bodies have begun a family with words. Words are important they brought our God to us to a gentle virgin; Our Mother from the Cross.

Religion, Art, Music, The Poets, History, Science have exercised such beauty and understanding through the ages; to help The Family and when they part from that, governments fall.

God calls all men to himself.

Ran across this in my father's catholic quote book last Sunday.

"Female and male God made the man, His image is the whole, not half."

- Coventry Patmore: The Angel in the House. (19th cent. )

God draws good out of evil and sickness. Since each generation has a battle to fight to see The Lord, The internal fight can build up a rage. The Lord is here to help us and heal us. Cancer highlights that sin is real. Not that the person is more guilty than any of us just that the destruction to our soul is so similar if we don't take a big dose of humility and ask for forgiveness from God and die with Christ. I am probably talking to the choir but sin is very real I am so sorry I did not see or accept that it is real which of course explains the arrival of Jesus. The need for Jesus and our souls needing to be healed within; the need for forgiveness and no one can truly forgive without love. To forgive someone we do it out of love (repeat :) ). Forgiveness gets us freed from missing out from heaven we need to be on both sides the asking and giving to others. Forgiveness from God gets us to have Life. Blindness hints at there is something to see and is being missed (a spiritual blindness needs to be healed); deafness hints at there is someone not to miss listening to (God within His Church, His readings, "The Gospel of The Lord." Love when I heard that :) ) and reflecting on God within our heart and turn a deaf ear to sin; Aids hints at the need to master our desires and how fragile we all are and it is God we need to desire and don't use the one we love because we would harm them; Autism hints at God is hiding beyond the veil of the child, to see God and the child as a gift and God is a Mystery, His love misunderstood and wanting to be loved by each soul and to have all become The Children of God.

From your article:

Apparently the Red Cross had asked the mayor to help coordinate a blood drive. But doing so was, he said, “like hosting a party you're not invited to.”

Matthew 22:1-14 comes to mind.

The whisper in the article I hear: He (the mayor of Campbell CA) has been invited to be like Christ. The blood has been there for him. For all of us. The blood of the Lamb will mark our door (heart and soul) and makes us clean if we poor sinners receive Jesus as He wants us. Love our neighbor as ourself. Receiving him in the Sacraments. Jesus makes our garments white as snow. We all have been invited but we must dress in this sacrificial garment of Our Lord or we will have lived in our own will and be sent out of The Wedding Feast because of our choice. Choose wisely.

I am not scholar but I appreciate your warning words. Highlighting that having Same Genders Marrying each other legally and expect to be able to practice our Faith freely will not happen. It is already happening as with florist and photographer you have mentioned.

We are all saints in the making :) .

Boy I would love to talk about my Dad just such an example of The Heavenly Fathers Love. Seems many are missing Our Heavenly Fathers love for them.

Also I did not know about Aristotle's thoughts on the killing of children. A little more than two weeks ago I spent time visiting with my Aunt in the hospital for three days before she past the next day on August 14, 2013 at her group home. I found out later that August 14th a remembering day for those Aborted and their Mothers. My Aunt Pauline has carried a cross for 76 years. It is believed she was oxygen deprive at birth. She was the second twin born and had the mind of a 2-4 year old and God saw each moment. She has front seats to The Wedding Feast with Jesus!
Two days before she died, there was a woman named Betty in the bed next to her at the hospital and Betty was moaning loudly and the nurses were trying to get a sample of urine from my Aunt and you could feel the stress in the air of the staff trying to care for the patients and trying not to disturb the patients on the floor by trying to make everyone coming in, to shut the door as they help the ladies. I took my rosary out thinking of St. Maria Faustina and how she prayed for souls dying and seeing demons trying upsetting the souls and pray The Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I could not recall the words to say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy because of such misery was in the air; so I began saying Hail Mary after Hail Mary and something very sad and beautiful happen. The aching moans sounded like the lamenting prayers flowing across Israel. The news plays a sound like it when a special will be done about Israel. It became quite in the room but I could still could hear the sad lonely lamenting sound in my head. I said goodbye to my Aunt Pauline and snuggled her face next to mine and told her I loved her and she said I love you. That is a wonderful thing to hear from Aunt Pauline! I said, God loves you so very much. ( Ohh. ) I said Goodbye sweetie to Betty. The moaning sound played in my head and I took it with me and I added in my mind Hail Mary after Hail Mary through the lobbies and elevator rides and and in the parking structure all through the drive home. It as if she meant something very very special to the Blessed Mother and I couldn't help think about Mary's cousin Elizabeth because of Betty's name and a inside out world and the trouble across the ocean in a place that Jesus said on This Rock I build my Church. Aunt Pauline was a suffering Christ a holy innocent and I love The Catholic Church for having dignity for each soul on the face of this planet including the ones floating about 3 feet off the ground in their mother's womb no matter what they become and do in the future or how their mind is, they are here for God; they should know that and we should love them that much, to share God with them, to share our time with them and with God. Jesus came here with a heart beating for us sinners. A heart beats before we even know we are pregnant. If the medical community and the rest of us understands that without the heart beating we are dead than can we not stand up for the innocent and say they are alive and to not burn, cut, pierce, tear and murder a life, what the world gives a sterile term Abortion. Or what should be an unsettling word, choice. Our children don't need to die for our fears and wants. The life is here to heal and do something special for God that no other soul can do. Location of the womb and out should be welcoming because in heaven or earth God has the Law to honor the mother and father written on their heart. There hearts will want to be reconciled with their mother...and father. If you have been involved with this false culture than name your baby and reconcile with your love and Your Loving God! Peace be upon you.

Boy, If we work together to turn this inside out culture right side out we certainly would be one of the greatest generations. Each generation has their time to turn their heart and culture to God. It certainly has been like that from the beginning. It is Our time for God.

I grew up with that sweet dear song, Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around The Old Oak Tree (...if you still want me)" Wouldn't it be neat to place a BLUE ribbon upon one of our front yard trees for Our Blessed Mother Mary with a Hail Mary :).

In St. Bernadette's account of her visits with the Bless Mother she recalled how Mary looked out to the crowd and it appeared to Bernadette that Mary was recognizing some of the people praying as her eyes saw them, she would smile like they were old friends. I hope we all get that close to Our Mother because sometimes a Mother is the only one you can go to, to change your world.

God Bless all your days, Maria

May all our hearts be open so the innocent don't suffer but enjoy living in "a breathing in God world" {The Truth we are created by God and given the freedom to seek Him} remembering the truth that we all are created by the Creator and have the freedom to seek Him; a Truth not a belief but a Truth. I want to say it again :) ( Aunt Pauline is probably enjoying me saying that :) ).

My father was an amazing man not by the worlds eyes but by God's. You see with in the church there is the little church and that is the family.

Where we are the church is.

We take our Faith where ever we go, what ever we own, whom ever we visit, what ever we do.

Our Faith is in each Breath!

It is in OUR blood :)

God be with you. I am praying for you. Please pray for my family and me. Thank you.
written by Jack,CT, September 30, 2013
@Lisa,I hear you and do respect
your view.
written by Jack,CT, October 01, 2013
@Lisa,I will remember u and your
Family in prayer and ty
for sharing....I read evey
word and it is beatiful,
God Bless

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