Think Foundation
Knowledge Centre - Voluntary Blood Donation Drives

Types of Blood Donation

1. Voluntary Blood Donation:

When a person donates blood without expecting anything in return, and without expecting it to be given to any specific person, he/she is called a Voluntary Blood Donor. In most cases such voluntary donors are repeat donors. Statistics show that this is the safest form of donation. Voluntary Blood Donation can be done by donating blood during Blood Donation Drives or by going to a Blood Bank and donating blood without any expectations. This form of Blood Donation ensures that Blood is already present in the Blood Banks and does not wait for a specific emergency.

2. Directed Blood Donation:

When a person donates blood for a specific patient and expects the donated blood to be given to that specific patient only, he/she is called a Directed Blood Donor. This form of blood donation is crisis-driven and therefore is not encouraged. The donor is donating blood under duress and at the request of a known person, and therefore may not disclose his true medical history. Blood collected in this manner has a higher chance of being unsafe.

3. Replacement Blood Donation:

When a person donates blood to replace the blood that has already been transfused to a patient, he/she is called a Replacement Blood Donor. This, unfortunately, is used by Hospitals and Blood Banks as a method of ensuring availability of blood. The onus of organizing blood is put on the patient, who may resort to bringing in a commercial donor or bring a friend or relative under duress. In any case, this donation is effectively a commercial donation, because this is done to get a refund on the deposit that the blood bank charges the patient for the blood issued.

4. Autologous Blood Donation:

Strictly speaking this cannot be called a donation. This is a case of blood being donated for oneself. It is possible for an individual to donate blood, store it and have it used for himself/herself. Of course this is possible for a planned operation, and provided the patient is healthy enough to donate blood. Since one’s own blood is being transfused, there is hardly any risk of transmitting any virus or of any adverse transfusion reaction. All the same, the routine tests and cross-matching formalities are carried out even in this situation. Autologous blood donation becomes even more relevant in cases of rare blood groups, where finding a donor may prove difficult.

It is a known fact that the blood collected from a voluntary, repeat donor is the safest. Therefore society should aim for 100 % voluntary blood donation.

Window Period

The objective of any Blood Programme is to make safe blood and its components available to those in need. It is necessary to ensure that the blood that is collected is safe. In other words it should be free of all transfusion transmissible diseases (TTDs).

It is mandatory for all blood banks to test the blood for all TTDs. In India, the blood that is collected is tested for HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Malaria, VDRL. This, however does not ensure that the blood that is transfused is safe for the recipient.

Most viruses carry a ‘window period’, during which period the routine tests are not able to detect the virus. This normally happens when a person, who donates blood, has contracted a virus in the recent past. The donor does not know of this and considers himself/herself to be fit. The period for which the virus cannot be detected is called the ‘window period’. Blood so collected does not get detected as unsafe, and therefore gets introduced into the blood banks as available for transfusion. The recipient is in grave danger of contracting the virus.

The risk of window period is a hanging sword over every blood programme. This threat can only be eliminated by ensuring that blood is collected from ‘safe’ donors. Today, it has been statistically established, both in India and abroad, that a safe donor is a donor who donates blood voluntarily, without knowing the beneficiary, without any expectation, and without being under any pressure of a direct or indirect nature.

In other words, a person who donates blood on the request of a specific patient, is a donor under pressure, and therefore an unsafe donor.

A safe donor is a donor who donates blood not for a specific patient, but knowing fully well that someone somewhere will benefit from his/her act of blood donation.

Voluntary Blood Donation Drives

Blood donation is perceived by most people as an act of donating blood for a friend or relative who is in a hospital. Most people believe that by donating blood in a hospital, one can ensure that the donated blood will go to the right person. This perception owes its origins to the practices followed by doctors and hospitals.

Hospitals have propagated this practice to ensure availability of blood. They believe that voluntary blood donors are rare. They also know that the patient has very little choice but to get donors to come to the hospital. The patient is almost made to believe that the surgery or treatment will not take place unless the donors are organized by the patient. The onus of organizing blood has been shifted by the hospital on to the patient, who is made to feel guilty for not organizing blood.

This practice is inhuman towards the suffering patient. It is the most inefficient way of collecting blood. It does not recognize the selflessness of the donor. And, most importantly, it compromises on the safety of blood. Therefore, contrary to the perception created by the hospital, bringing a donor to a hospital for a specific patient increases the risk of unsafe blood.

Voluntary blood donors exist. It is necessary for Blood Banks to go to where the donors are. If information is given to the donor about blood donation, and if blood donation is made convenient, donors will come and donate blood voluntarily. It is important to identify places where voluntary blood donation drives can be held.

The segments where blood donation drives can be held are:

  1. Colleges.
  2. Offices.
  3. Factories.
  4. Residential areas.
  5. Religious Institutions/Congregations.
  6. Railway stations (with airconditioned structures).

It is our experience that large number of donors turn up for blood donation drives. An effort has to be made to dispel apprehensions that people have by organizing lectures, providing posters etc.