Health authorities in Vietnam have put on the table two solutions to address blood shortages as part of the latest draft law on blood and stem cell donations.
The options are to make blood donations compulsory or keep them voluntary. The Health Ministry recommends the latter.
If policy makers agree on the former, some 46 million people, or half of Vietnam’s total population, will be forced to donate blood once a year, and supply will outstrip demand by nearly 7 million liters.
Nguyen Quang Huy, head of the Health Ministry’s Department of Legal Affairs, told VnExpress that the ministry is in favor of regular, voluntary, unpaid blood donations which can guarantee the community has a sufficient supply of safe blood.
“Compulsory blood donations are a breach of human rights,” Quang pointed out, adding that making blood donations compulsory would be a global first.
The compulsory option was included in the draft as a point of reference to prove that voluntary donations are the optimal solution, Quang said.
In fact, the draft law prohibits "forcing or preventing somebody from giving blood or stem cells". The ministry also proposed that voluntary donors should be eligible for free blood transfusions in line with past donations. Other benefits include two days off work to give blood and recover.
It would cost the government an estimated VND4.18 trillion ($184 million) each year to force all healthy citizens to donate blood, twice as much as the current cost of VND2 trillion to collect blood from voluntary donors.
Official statistics showed that in 2010, only 0.9 percent of the Vietnamese population donated blood. After sustained government efforts to raise public awareness about the need to voluntarily give blood, 1.52 percent of the population donated last year.
According to heath authorities, just 2 percent of the population would need to donate blood to meet nationwide needs for transfusions.
In Vietnam, blood donors, aged between 18 and 60 years, must be free of heart disease, hypertension and blood-borne illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and malaria.
A healthy adult can donate up to four times a year.