Belfast Telegraph

Gay blood threat is 'infinitesimal', Appeal Court told

By Alan Erwin

Lifting the lifetime ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland would increase the risk of a contaminated donation getting through just once every 15,000 years, the Court of Appeal heard.

Senior judges were told former Health Minister Edwin Poots acted irrationally in maintaining the prohibition because the threat was "infinitesimal".

Lawyers for a homosexual man at the centre of the legal battle also claimed Mr Poots' decision was a "knee-jerk reaction" which went against the advice of his officials and experts.

Attempts are being made to overturn a finding that the DUP MLA did not have the power to keep the lifetime ban on donations from homosexual men.

Challenges to the verdict have been continued by Mr Poots' DUP ministerial successors and the British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

A panel of three appeal judges are examining issues about whether authority for blood policy is a devolved matter.

David Scoffield QC, barrister for a homosexual man granted anonymity in the case and referred to as JR65, claimed the former minister's decision was so disproportionate as to be unreasonable.

Based on medical evidence, he argued, introducing a one-year deferral period could actually lead to enhanced compliance and increased safety.

"The minister's own professional adviser was supporting the change, the chief medical officer was supporting the change," he said.

It was contended that Mr Poots' concerns centred on a finding that, if the deferral period was brought in, the threat of contaminated blood getting into the supplies would increase by one in every billion donations.

"In Northern Ireland, where there are only around 64,000 donations per year, that's a risk of an infectious donation being realised about every 15,000 years," Mr Scoffield said.

"The risk is plainly, in our submission, infinitesimal. It was, we say, a knee-jerk reaction."

The case continues.

Belfast Telegraph


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