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Blood donations triple after terror attacks but Britons are still banned

Blood donor numbers soared in the aftermath of the November Paris terror attacks with the Établissement Français du Sang (EFS) donor agency saying it had three times its usual number of donations in Ile-de-France the day after the outrage that killed 130 and left 350 wounded.

Just short of 10,000 people turned up at donor centres across France to offer blood and there were 1,300 new donors in Ile-de-France – leading to long queues at hospitals and people being asked to return later.

In all, EFS collected 88,000 donations in the week after the attack – 55% up on normal – but it hoped people would continue to donate as it needs about 10,000 a day at this time of year. To find out more about about where to give blood see

There is a constant need for blood as there is no real alternative and it has a short life span of just 42 days for red cells and five for platelets (although plasma lasts a year).

However, only 8,400 of those who turned up the day after the attacks could donate blood as there are strict rules such as being aged between 18 and 70 and weighing at least 50kg, having eaten a meal before the donation – and not having a cold, flu or other ailment.

In addition, no one who lived in the UK during the period 1980 to 1996, when the BSE/CJD epidemic was at its peak, can give blood. The restriction is not just for UK citizens but also applies to French or other nationalities living in Britain at the time.

Similar restrictions apply for donations of sperm or eggs to help childless families although there is some provision for organs to be donated under special circumstances.

Potential sperm, egg or embryo donors are asked questions on their health before each session and are asked if they have had any exposure to mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) such as if they had received a blood transfusion or a drug derived from cattle (such as bovine insulin) and if they had ever had brain surgery.

This includes living in the UK during the banned period.

Similar questions are asked for those who are offering organs for donation and anyone in an at-risk category is excluded.

Before any organ is transplanted doctors will check for any possible HIV/Aids infection present but until very recently there was no test for BSE or the degenerative, fatal brain disorder vCJD but researchers in both Toulouse and London are working on blood tests.

Different procedures obviously apply where organs are sought for use after a person has died – such as in an accident and there are specific legal rules regarding which country’s law is applicable for organ removal.

This is because, unlike in the UK, French law allows for automatic organ removal unless the deceased had registered their refusal on a national register.  If they have not signed this doctors will also consult relatives to establish if they had voiced objections. If you wish to sign the register you can download the form at It is only available for adults or children aged 13 or above.

For Britons non-resident in France or those who had lived here for less than three months it will be UK law that applies and medical teams will contact the next of kin via the UK embassy to ask for permission.

French law will apply in the case of the death of a long-term British resident in France but doctors will carry out tests to ensure there can be no transmission of disease.


  • This spring, male homosexuals will be able to donate blood – for the first time since 1983 – if they have not had male sex for 12 months. 
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