Your patient needs blood urgently. But there’s none. Yet you need to operate ASAP. Their life hangs in the balance. Your mind races: No blood means a death sentence, OR, call for donations; but it’ll take long testing for the perfect match. So your next instinct is, “I’m a match; I’ll donate.” But hold up!
Granted, in high-stakes medical emergencies, every second counts, and you must make life-saving decisions on the fly. Besides, healthcare professionals are trained to prioritize patients’ needs. But what about when the thin line between personal sacrifice and professional responsibility is blurred? Arguably, it’s a heroic and necessary move bridging the life-death gap. Conversely, opponents point out the move’s potential risks and ethical implications. So what’s the best way forward? Read on as we delve into the complexities of medics donating blood for patients in an emergency and the various factors at play, like the risks, benefits, moral implications, and technology.
Let’s First Explore the Underlying Situation in Kenya
The Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) works to ensure the availability of blood banks for patients, a challenging task due to various limitations.
The System, Its Limitations and Recent Statistics
- Limited Donors: According to WHO, at least 1% of a country’s population should be regular donors for adequate supply. But in Kenya, only 0.5% donate blood regularly.
- Infected Donations: Out of the 0.5%, some will be discarded due to infections.
- Scarce Supporting Resources: Does Kenya have the infrastructure for collecting, processing and storing blood or adequately trained professionals? No, there’s not enough.
Kenya’s blood donation declined from 202,367 units in 2016 to a 19% drop in 2018 and another dip to about 100,000 units by mid-2020 due to lockdowns and fears of infection from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thankfully, initiatives like the World Bank Health Emergency Project yielded an 86% increase by mid-2021 from more drives and high-tech processing and storage systems.
So Should Medics Chip In to Save the Day?
While recent years have seen an increased number of units, the blood bank deficit still exists, posing a massive risk to dependent patients like those with cancer, sickle cell anemia and thalassemia, not to mention the unforeseen needs like accidents or emergency surgeries.
As such, healthcare professionals are increasingly faced with difficult decisions on allocating scarce blood resources or finding some in the first place. In other cases, they’re left toying with donating their blood in life-or-death situations. This scenario sparks the debate on whether medics should donate their blood in emergencies, highlighting the risks, ethical and legal implications. Let’s explore them.
1. Ethical Considerations Regarding Medics Donating Blood
Donating blood for one’s patient qualifies as a compassionate gesture, aligning with the medical profession’s core values of empathy and sensitivity and the Hippocratic Oath to consider the patient’s needs. Besides, no doctor enjoys losing patients, so they may as well do whatever it takes.
Professionalism and Protecting Oneself
As a doctor, while you have a professional responsibility to the patient, you must also protect yourself. So before asking why this point is more relevant than saving a life, consider the below points:
A Medic Donating Blood Poses the Following Risks:
- Side effects like dizziness, weakness, and fainting may interfere with the immediacy of care.
- Blood donation can endanger one’s health in case of unknown underlying conditions. Please talk to us for comprehensive screening if you’re wondering how to identify underlying illnesses.
- Possible Impaired Judgment: Drawing blood may impair your judgment and emotional stability, compromising patient care and making your life-saving attempt counterproductive and detrimental.
A patient reserves the right to decide about their care, including consenting to major medical decisions—Suppose the donation happens while the patient is unconscious; it may compromise their autonomy.
One could argue that the patient or their immediate family agreed, but judgment may be compromised in emergencies. Therefore, issues around informed consent may arise, questioning whether the patient or family was fully aware or in the right mindset to decide.
2. Legal Aspects of Medics Donating Blood
Another argument is that a doctor donating blood for their patient isn’t illegal. But wait, Kenya’s lack of specific laws guiding the medic-patient donation dilemma is a legal issue in and of itself. How? It promotes ambiguity, creating uncertainty from different interpretations.
Besides, unforeseen potential legal repercussions also apply. For example, suppose a medic gives blood, and the patient suffers complications or dies. The doctor and institution face liability for knowingly or unknowingly harming the patient.
What’s the Alternative Solution?
- Tech Systems: Tech solutions to track blood databases can enhance prompt delivery, exchange and distribution.
- AI (Artificial Intelligence): Yes, you read that right! Artificial blood exists, providing an excellent alternative. And what’s better, blood substitutes belong to blood group O, offering a perfect one-size-fits-all. This technology is expected to gain optimal growth within the region by 2028.
- Policymakers to Develop Clear Guidelines: National and institutional bodies should provide legal frameworks outlining the best course of action and the implications to enhance confident, informed and speedy decisions.
Final Word: To Donate Blood for Your Patient or Not?
While medics donating blood for patients is heroic, selfless, and aligned with the profession’s values, skeptics consider it risky and unethical. Therefore, while it’s a personal decision, it’s vital to analyze it and consult first. Policymakers should also enact guidelines and use tech interventions for a fool-proof system, saving lives one pint at a time while protecting the donor and patient. As a patient, effective healthcare helps manage complications and identify illnesses early to avoid foreseen emergency blood needs. And that begins with taking control of your health; start your journey today with our comprehensive medical services.