Scientists say Red Cross blood ban case ‘a straw man’

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Two bio-ethicists today gave evidence at the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal investigating gay blood donation in Tasmania.

Dr. Lesley Cannold, a lecturer and researcher in bio-ethics at Melbourne and Monash Universities, said that the case put forward by Red Cross witnesses was ‘a straw man’.

Dr. Cannold claimed that the Red Cross’ case assessed the risk associated with allowing all gay and bisexual men to donate blood without considering a bar on those who have unsafe sex.

Also giving evidence was Dr. Scott Halpern, a bio-ethicist and epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, and a consultant to the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Halpern put forward the argument that blood older than 15 days (which comprises at least 13% of the Australian supply) poses a risk of death ‘thousands of times greater’ than the worst predictions of HIV infection stemming from unsafe male-to-male sex.

The tribunal was begun by gay would-be donor Michael Cain.

Mr. Cain, 21, seeks to have the Australian Red Cross’ ban on gay men donating blood lifted, after he was rejected as a donor in October 2004.

The next witness will appear on Friday and further witnesses for both sides will appear next week.