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Schools re-examine blood drive guidelines

By TOM MARSHALL
Published April 19, 2007


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BROOKSVILLE - On paper, the law is clear: 17-year-olds can give blood without parental consent, unless parents object in writing.

But complying with that state law - and making sure parents have a chance to object to their child's donation on school grounds - is anything but simple, Hernando County School Board members said Tuesday.

"My son almost died as a result of this donation," Paul Nazar said, citing his son Elliott's low blood pressure April 11 upon admission to Brooksville Regional Hospital. His son was 6 pounds under the 110-pound minimum and had a medical history that made him an inappropriate donor, Nazar said.

Nazar said he would have objected in writing if he'd only known Hernando High was holding a blood drive that day.

"How can you respond if you're not told?" asked board member Jim Malcolm, who said the district was exposing itself to liability. He suggested raising the minimum age for donations at school to 18.

"Eighteen years of age should be the approved age at the schools," agreed chairman Pat Fagan. "If parents want to allow their students who are 17 years old to give blood, then they can assist taking them to the blood bank."

Board members quickly reached a consensus to raise the minimum age, and Fagan directed staff members to change the policy. But officials from the agency that conducted the blood drive said that would be a mistake.

"High school blood drives are a huge element of influence on the safety and adequacy of the American blood supply," said Bill Gair, chief operating officer for LifeSouth Community Blood Centers in Gainesville. "I would be most disappointed if the School Board would eliminate 17-year-olds."

Gair said many donors give blood for the first time in high school, establishing a lifelong habit of contributing to the nation's blood supply. The vast majority of donors experience no faintness or other side-effects.

Many blood banks allow even 16-year-olds to donate blood with parental consent, he said, adding that his organization would be happy to work with the School Board to craft a sensible policy. "Maybe we should go to parental permission slips for school blood drives," Gair said.

Jill Evans, a LifeSouth spokeswoman, said it could enter a parent's written objection into a computer database, preventing a 17-year-old from donating at one of its bloodmobiles.

But Gair said he'd never heard of a parent taking advantage of that provision of the state law.

"The law says a parent can object, but how would that happen in a bloodmobile at the library?" he asked. "I guess it's a topic that has never come up before."

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

[Last modified April 19, 2007, 06:47:59]


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