On 01 March 2012 all the provisions of the National Health Act, Act 61 of 2003, (“the Act”) came into effect and accordingly the Minister in terms of section 90(1) read with section 68(1) promulgated Regulation GNR. 180 of 2 March 2012: Regulations: General control of human bodies, tissue, blood, blood products and gametes (Government Gazette No.35099) (“Regulation 180”). In terms of Regulation 180 read with section 56 of the Act, blood may not be withdrawn from persons under the age of 18 years (“minors”) without consent from the parent/guardian of minors.
Noting that previously blood donors from the age of 16 years and older could donate blood without parental consent, and that the 16 -17 year old group represents approximately 13% of the total blood donor population in South Africa, the Western Province Blood Transfusion Service (WPBTS) and the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) have made numerous representations over the past four years to the National Department of Health to reconsider this legislation in order to maintain a sufficient blood supply.
The submissions to the National Department of Health comprised the following:
- The Blood Services are of the view that it is absolutely essential for the Blood Services to continue collecting blood from donors aged 16 and above without parental consent. Not only does this allow valuable educational opportunities on leading a safe lifestyle (including the practice of safe sex), it also encourages a philosophy of donation which then extends into later years. All schools at which blood is collected from learners heavily support the cause of blood donation and recognise the voluntary, altruistic motive as being an important part of societal value development in those of an age most receptive to such values.
- The minimum age of consent for blood donation does not seem logical in terms of the ages of consent for other medical or diagnostic procedures.
- Reduced access to the younger blood donor population will have dire consequences and put the Blood Services under increased pressure, adding to the already strained blood levels.
The Blood Services’ request was for the Minister of Health to amend Regulation 180 and reduce the age of donation to 16 years, or, in the interim, ask the Minister of Health to permit the Blood Services to continue collecting blood from donors from the age of 16 years without parental consent, until the Regulation was amended.
At a meeting between representatives of the Blood Services and the National Department of Health on 10th February, it was confirmed that the Regulation would be amended, to allow blood donors to begin donating at age 16 years, under their own consent. The NDoH committed to fast-track the amendment to the Regulation, which is estimated to take approximately six months. The revision will be published for public comment.
However, the NDoH confirmed that there was no legal mechanism to allow the Services to deviate from the existing Regulations, and the Childrens’ Act did not allow for consent for blood donation by 16 and 17 year olds. Accordingly, The Western Province Blood Transfusion Service (WPBTS) will be asking the parents or legal guardians of 16 and 17 year olds to provide written consent for them to donate blood. This will apply until the Regulation is amended.
WPBTS thank you for your support and cooperation during this interim period, which will hopefully be of short duration. Further information on the blood donation procedure is included on the Consent Form which can be downloaded from the website from 01 March, as well as on our website: www.wpblood.org.za. Further questions regarding the legislation may also be directed to Dr Terence Carter at CarteT@health.gov.za.
The Western Province Blood Transfusion Service
Corporate Public Relations
Marlize van der Merwe
Tel (021) 507 6368 / 083 411 4583