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Parents' Rights, Teenagers, and Blood Donation:

I just gave blood today, and thought about how it would be good to one day persuade my kids to do the same. Naturally, this should happen only when they're physically big enough to safely donate, by which time they should be old enough to appreciate what they're doing and why it's good. But I'd like to start as young as possible, given these constraints, since I think it'll be a valuable educational experience, and may encourage good habits and attitudes. And my sense is that, setting aside size and unusual health conditions, such a donation would basically be perfectly safe.

So I wondered: To what extent would I be legally allowed to engage in this sort of parental education? Various Web sites report that many states set a minimum age of 16 or 17, and that strikes me as an unwarranted interference with parents' choices. But my quick look at California law discovered only a provision that specifically allows donation with parental consent at age 15 or older (and without consent at 17 or older), and doesn't specifically prohibit donation at an earlier age. Can anyone point me to laws (in California or elsewhere) that do indeed prohibit donations, even with a parent's consent (possibly with exceptions for emergency targeted donations)? Is there some other reason why blood banks would be reluctant to accept donations from minors who have the parent's consent? Is there some argument that I'm missing for why such donations should be barred?

By the way, I don't think that such prohibitions are unconstitutional (though I suppose that under Pierce and Meyer a decent though not overwhelming case could be made in favor of that position), just that they are -- unless I'm missing some important objection -- improper intrusions into a legitimate parental decision about the child's moral education.

David Krinsky (mail):
Donating blood, though generally considered safe, is not without its physiological effects--you have a lot of red blood cells to replenish, and I vaguely recall hearing that it has some noticeable (though not terribly problematic) effects on the immune system.

Is it safe for growing children to donate blood? I'm not sure it is--or if it's known. If there's reason to believe that people who are not yet full-grown should not donate blood, or even if the health effects are not well-understood, that seems like a legitimate reason to set a relatively high minimum age (whether by law or by the policy of a reputable blood donation center).
9.21.2006 5:00pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
I suspect that these laws are vestiges of a time during which minors were prohibited, with the best of intentions, from doing many things. It was also a time at which blood donation wasn't as commmon. The first blood bank in the United States was established in 1937, and the Rh antigen wasn't discovered until 1939, which means that prior to that, receiving, although not donating, blood was considerably more perilous than it is now.

I also suspect that there hasn't been a lot of demand to have the laws changed from parents like you.

And thank you for giving blood.
9.21.2006 5:05pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I used to get called every fifty-six days, and donated. I took some time out since the Red Cross wanted anything I'd picked up in foreign travel to manifest itself.
I ultimately donated 108 times, counting college and the Army before something or other spooked them. When they had me going regularly at the minimum intervals, they noticed my iron was down--surprise--and recommended iron-supplements.

IMO, anything which requires supplements to replace, besides Gatorade, ought NOT to be done by people who are still growing.
9.21.2006 5:20pm
BobN (mail):
Obeying rules is part of "moral education", too. Waiting for adulthood for some things is part of "moral education", too. Letting national organizations make pretty reasonable rules to apply to all the population regardless of what one parent wants is part of a moral education, too.

Of course, pushing and shoving and arguing your way past all these rules for special treatment for your own special desires just because YOU have good enough reasons for YOU is part of a moral education, too, though not necessarily a good one.

If you want to expose your kids to the importance of donating blood, they could probably help with the blood drive in other ways, like hanging posters or handing out cookies. I seem to recall Red Cross programs geared to youngsters... things like elementary first aid, etc.
9.21.2006 5:55pm
Samiran (mail):
Who really wants to be the one to steal blood from a child? Trust me, it's a powerful train of thought....
9.21.2006 5:57pm
jimbino (mail):
Donating blood serves to endanger you and impoverish you and your loved ones. A policy of donating blood is analogous to the American policy of subsidizing farmers by buying their crops at artificially high prices and then "donating" them to the poor folks of Africa. This has the long-recognized effect of impoverishing the African farmer and of distorting world markets in food. Blood and organs would be more available and end up going to the "right" recipients if we were to repeal laws that control sale of blood and organs. Lawyers and other professionals file suit when the government competes with them in offering free services!
9.21.2006 6:02pm
Pub Editor (mail):
Richard Aubrey,

I don't think Prof. Volokh was suggesting that he would have his children donate consistently every 8 weeks (am I wrong?). Your concern for not depriving growing persons of needed elements is well intentioned and well founded, but most of the problem could be avoided by simply donating less often, rather than through a blanket ban on donation.
9.21.2006 6:02pm
RGaye:
I think the age rules are for a reason but I took my son with me from about 7-8 on. He was quite interested in the whole procedure, asked about a million questions and not at all bothered by the process.
9.21.2006 6:05pm
Mike Keenan:
I don't think blood banks have the resources to employ a doctor to check every minor for fitness to donate.

I think it is good enough for you to be an example. Let them know you donate. If they see you value it and they respect you, they will want to follow your example.
9.21.2006 6:10pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
BobN's arguments puzzle me, as does the seeming intensity of his emotion about them. I'm not planning to disobey the rules; I'm just questioning whether they're sound. "Waiting for adulthood for some things" is indeed "part of 'moral education,' too" -- but not for all things, and the question is why this particular sort of charitable act should wait until adulthood. Nor do I oppose "[l]etting national organizations make pretty reasonable rules to apply to all the population regardless of what one parent wants"; rather, I was asking what the law does or should do, and it's far from clear to me why a flat ban on donations below a certain age is the "reasonable" solution.

Nor am I arguing for "special treatment for [my] own special desires"; I'm questioning whether the existing rules are sound, or whether they should be repealed for all parents and children. I had thought that suggesting that the current rules are mistaken and that other rules would be better was not in principle setting a bad example -- and that "arguing" about what the rules ought to be is hardly tantamount to "pushing and shoving."
9.21.2006 6:30pm
eeyn524:
Every once in a while you see those ads offering $500 to participate in a medical study, for example, evaluating a new drug.

Should a parent be able to farm out their children in order to collect the $500? Does it make a difference if the parent sincerely believes, or claims to sincerely believe, that medical studies are necessary for human progress, and getting his/her children started early is part of their moral education? Does it hinge on whether money is involved?
9.21.2006 6:36pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
A possible reason for banning children (or teenagers) is that they may unknowingly be members of a banned population for blood donation.

There are several drugs which serve as a bar to donating blood for a period of time. One I'm familiar with, Flagyl, prescribed for certain parasites, gets one on the "no donation" list for about seven years. An otherwise intelligent teen may not recall the names of medications or they dates on which they were prescribed from that far back.

Similarly, those who lived in the UK after around 1990 (I'm not sure of the exact date) are banned for life from donating, due to fears about Mad Cow Disease. A teen ought to be able to recall where s/he lived, but could be fuzzy on dates.
9.21.2006 6:49pm
Deoxy (mail):
I would think that having your child accomany you as you donate would b quite sufficint for the moral lesson.

Of course, I CAN'T give blood (which is a shame, since I would) due to interesting foreign illness that disqualifis one forever, so I appreciate people who do.
9.21.2006 6:52pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
eeyn24: First, experimental studies seem likely to involve some unknown risks; blood donation doesn't. Second, the offer of compensation, which will likely end up (directly or indirectly) in the parent's pocket, may give parents an undue incentive to put their child's health at some risk. I don't see how this can be analogized to highly safe blood donations, in which the parent's decision is quite unlikely to be affected by the prospect of financial benefit to the parent.

John Burgess: An otherwise intelligent adult may not recall the names of medications or the dates on which they were prescribed, either. If a teenager donates with the parent's permission -- which would likely involve the parent's in-person permission -- there's a pretty good chance that either the teenager or the parent will remember the medications that the teenager took, and will remember whether the teenager lived in the UK. It's not a certainty, but the danger here seems not materially greater than it is for adults.
9.21.2006 6:56pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
I just posed the question to an acquaintance of mine who used to be in charge of Stanford's apheresis (a blood donation technology) program and is now in charge of Stanford's participation in the national bone marrow donation program. He said that it probably had to do with giving "informed consent". There are some medical risks involved in giving blood, and there is a concern that anybody who gives blood understands those risk and is willing to take them on. He added that, in the case of bone marrow donation, which can involve surgery and general anesthesia, there is a blanket prohibition on donation from anybody under the age of eighteen, with or without parental consent, because the risks involved are higher.

The whole thing, to me, has an air of wanting to err on the side of protecting the donor, and perhaps of concern about being sued by donors who suffer some harm as a result of donating.

It may well be that your children can volunteer at the blood bank at younger ages.
9.21.2006 6:56pm
BobN (mail):
Sorry about the vehemence of my post. I've had recent exposure to some very spoiled brats (related, sadly) whose parents (related, sadly) are very much of the we-know-best and we're-gonna-get-what-we-want school. They've inflicted their "parental authority" on restaurants, airlines, schools, and after-school programs.

I don't mind people trying to bring others to their POV through reason and discussion, but even hinting at legal action gets to me. I guess the word "unconstitutional" and the phrase "improper intrusions into a legitimate parental decision" set me off.


Nor am I arguing for "special treatment for [my] own special desires"; I'm questioning whether the existing rules are sound, or whether they should be repealed for all parents and children. I had thought that suggesting that the current rules are mistaken and that other rules would be better was not in principle setting a bad example -- and that "arguing" about what the rules ought to be is hardly tantamount to "pushing and shoving."


I think one has to give credit to an entire profession and to the good intentions of the people who formulated those rules, even if they don't make sense to you or in your particular case. That said, there's nothing wrong with challenging the rules, but only with a thorough understanding of the situation. Of course, you think of legal avenues -- it's your profession, afterall -- but that's not what a challenge should be based on. Public health officials, doctors, nurses, child psychologists, etc. should (and did) make these rules.

For every well-intentioned dad out there who wants to encourage his kid to start making charitable donations, there's another dad who wants his kid to "grow up and be a man" whether that kid wants to or not.
9.21.2006 7:04pm
BobN (mail):

I don't see how this can be analogized to highly safe blood donations, in which the parent's decision is quite unlikely to be affected by the prospect of financial benefit to the parent


"Quite unlikely"? I grew up in a somewhat sketchy neighborhood near a worse neighborhood. We shared the same elementary school. I don't doubt for a second that I knew kids whose parents would have marched the whole family down to the Red Cross to raise an easy $100, and the kids would have known better than to utter a peep.
9.21.2006 7:14pm
EricT:
I can think of a couple rules that make a person ineligable to donate, but which a child might not want to admit to in front of a parent ( such as IV drug use or homosexual activity ). This could encourage children to donate when their blood is not safe, just so they don't have to explain to their parents why they are not donating.
9.21.2006 7:34pm
SeaLawyer:
Blood donation restrictions are usually around weight. It is not worth a blood banks time to take less then a pint of blood. The age limits are there for both weight and overall development.

It is healthy for men to give blood, helps reduce the iron count, but as David Krinsky said don't donate so much that you need to take supplements.
9.21.2006 7:49pm
eeyn524:
Prof Volokh: Just to be clear, I think what you're doing is great and I hope no one gives you any trouble. But, the example of a medical study was to show that it really isn't about "parental rights", it's about judging relative risk levels. Likewise, the part about the presence or absence of financial incentive I think shows that the persons running the blood drive are being forced into the position of deciding your intent. No doubt about your motives personally, but there are a few not so responsible parents out there who could, for example, use the 30-minute blood donation simply to park the child while they go shopping.

The guys running the blood drive could reasonably decide that the chance of getting either decision wrong (the risk or your motives) isn't worth it considering the small stakes involved (and the state might decide it for them). As Silcon Valley Jim says, a lot of it is about the risk of getting sued. When a child is involved it's going to be much, much harder to argue that the subject consented.
9.21.2006 7:56pm
Fub:
Eugene Volokh wrote:
eeyn24: First, experimental studies seem likely to involve some unknown risks; blood donation doesn't. Second, the offer of compensation, which will likely end up (directly or indirectly) in the parent's pocket, may give parents an undue incentive to put their child's health at some risk. I don't see how this can be analogized to highly safe blood donations, in which the parent's decision is quite unlikely to be affected by the prospect of financial benefit to the parent.
More specifically the referenced statute, CA H&S Sec. 1607.5(c), makes this definition,
(c) As used in this section "donation of blood" means a giving of blood in which the donor of the blood receives no payment therefor.
9.21.2006 8:03pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Minimum age? My cat Buster has been donating blood since the age of five! I don't know about this "informed consent" thing, though ...

(Not a joke. Animal hospitals often are in desperate need of blood for their patients. Donations are a real help -- you probably don't want to know about the other source for animal blood for transfusions. At the clinic where Buster donates there's a minimum weight limit of 10 pounds; at 13 pounds, he shrugs off any aftereffects within a few hours. They put him under mild sedation and tap a vein near the jaw. If you have a robust dog or cat, you could do worse than to inquire about having your animal donate ... it could save two lives.)
9.21.2006 8:04pm
Fub:
EricT wrote:
I can think of a couple rules that make a person ineligable to donate, but which a child might not want to admit to in front of a parent ( such as IV drug use or homosexual activity ). This could encourage children to donate when their blood is not safe, just so they don't have to explain to their parents why they are not donating.
I think one effect of the permission requirement is that it would provide some evidence of the criminal culpability of a parent who gave the permission, in cases where the donation was a crime.

Frex, CA H&S Section 1621.5 makes knowing donation of HIV infected blood a felony.
9.21.2006 8:16pm
Dr. T (mail) (www):
Rules on donating blood and bone marrow vary. Sibling donation of bone marrow has involved infant donors. The commenter stating that Stanford bans bone marrow donations from child donors is almost certainly wrong in the case of related donors.

There are medical and legal reasons for restricting (but not absolutely banning) blood donations by younger teens.

Medical: Donors must have systolic blood pressure >100 mm Hg and weight >100 pounds.

Legal: Donors must understand the risks of donation, restrictions to activities after donation, and the need to truthfully answer many personal questions that include inquiries about sexual habits and illicit drug use. They also must understand the need for follow-up care if testing of donated blood indicates the presence of disease.

Even if a 14-year-old meets the medical requirements and is intelligent and mature enough to handle the legal requirements, the donor center is at greater risk than with an adult donor. I suspect that most donor centers will ban younger teens except when need for blood is great.
9.21.2006 8:43pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
The commenter stating that Stanford bans bone marrow donations from child donors is almost certainly wrong in the case of related donors.

I may well be. I was relaying what their director said, and he may well have been simplifying.
9.21.2006 8:56pm
Cathy (mail) (www):
Regarding the original impetus of wanting to encourage your children to donate blood:

It will be enough that you model this for your children. My dad has given blood regularly ever since I was an infant (I'm now 32). He always brought us home the "be nice to me, I gave blood today" stickers afterwards, which I'd wear, because what little kid doesn't like stickers? But as grew older and more aware of what he was doing, I began to wear them with pride. It got to the point that I could hardly wait until I was 17 and finally able to give blood myself.

Unfortunately, even though I "grew older" I didn't really "grow up," and until recently had problems meeting the 110 lb. donor minimum... But it's still something I respect my dad tremendously for having done (his lifetime donation total can be measured in gallons) and inspired me to do.
9.21.2006 9:03pm
peg (mail) (www):
My situation is similar to that of Cathy's. My dad and husband have probably given swimming pool's worth of blood. I, however, have never donated. Until recently, my weight was too low, as was my blood pressure.

With advancing age, my weight has crept up. Now, I am slightly over the 110 minimum and my blood pressure has also increased. But alas; when I tried to donate, my iron level was not sufficient. I will, however, try again - next time after a hearty steak.

I've received blood during emergency surgery, and I am tremendously grateful to those who do donate. "The gift of life" is exactly that.

B.T.W. - I happen to have AB negative blood, which is one of the rarest around. If I am ultimately able to donate - will hardly anyone be avaible to use my donation?!
9.21.2006 9:42pm
Ken Arromdee:
A policy of donating blood is analogous to the American policy of subsidizing farmers by buying their crops at artificially high prices and then "donating" them to the poor folks of Africa. This has the long-recognized effect of impoverishing the African farmer and of distorting world markets in food.

That's nonsense--even by free-market standards.

It's a lot easier for a government gift to distort the market than a gift by a private individual. The government can collect taxes to pay for the food it gives, so it really isn't bound by market forces in paying for the food or giving it. Private individuals are unlikely to cause the same problems; they can't just give as much food as they want, but are bound by their personal wealth, so they're far more likely to give only when it's really needed.

By your reasoning, it's wrong to write free software (distorts the market by making it harder for people to sell software). For that matter, it's wrong to sell things at any price X, because it "distorts the market" for similar things at higher prices, no matter what X is.

Organs are another problem altogether. The problem with selling organs is that people personally value their organs at more than the organs' retail value. Thus, in a free market, you'd only see people sell their organs when they need money so badly that they'd be willing to take a loss.
9.21.2006 9:55pm
John Noble (mail):
I would expect blood banks to refuse to rely on parental consent unless, like California, there was a statute authorizing parents to consent on behalf of a minor. In Meyer, the Court emphasized that "there seems no adequate foundation for the suggestion that the purpose was to protect the child's health by limiting his mental activities," and "experience shows that this is not injurious to the health, morals or understanding of the ordinary child."

But the flip side of no-risk/any-benefit is no-benefit/any-risk. Injections always carry the risk of infection, however slight. Plus, it hurts to get stuck with a needle. Where the risk or pain is gratuitous because there is no benefit to the child, you're at the boundaries of parental authority, as well as a third party's good faith reliance on the parent's proxy. Would you feel differently about a statute that prohibited reliance on parental consent to tattoo a child?

We're a far cry from a parental right to refuse life-saving medical treatment, but I would be reluctant to invite "moral education" into the risk-benefit calculus. We're not very far from religious freedom and snake-handling lessons in Sunday school.

John Noble
9.21.2006 10:32pm
seekingtruth (mail):
Blood donations resulting in the donating party not receiving any payment should be allowed. Neglect laws are already in place to protect against parents who'd abuse this "privlege."
I don't believe parents should be able to compell children to participate - individual's (child's) rights should trump.
9.21.2006 10:36pm
lucia (mail) (www):
I gave blood when in highschool during a blood drive organized by the church my family attended. I don't remember if I was 16 or 17, but I was definitely younger than 18. I don't think my parents permission was even required.

As it happens, neither one ever gave blood. My father is disqualified for health reasons, my mother just doesn't donate. I gave because it struck me as a good thing to do.

Oh-- I noticed someone posted the blood pressure requirement. The first time I tried to donate my blood pressure was too low. (I've learned that I need to schedule donations after 10 pm or I get consistently rejected for low blood pressure.)
9.21.2006 11:25pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
When I was a teenager, before the web, I wrote a paper "rights and the market in blood", since misplaced.
The thesis was that by probiting blood sales, some 3000 in the us alone die needlessly each year, and that's unethical.
Since then, I've refused to donate blood, although it's a pointless and ineffective boycott.
These days, I have more of a transnational perspective. Sure, the USA has an irrational medical economy that kills people while bankrupting the government, but a plane ticket to a small island nation is cheap as part of the total cost of medical care. Anyone care to join me in opening a blood and organ bank in say, Tonga?
9.21.2006 11:41pm
BobN (mail):

B.T.W. - I happen to have AB negative blood, which is one of the rarest around. If I am ultimately able to donate - will hardly anyone be avaible to use my donation?!


You should contact your local Red Cross. They'll put you on a list and call you when there's a need for your blood if it is rare enough. When I gave blood back in college, they asked me not to donate until there was a specific need. My roomie used to leave me notes saying that the zoo had called about another emergency surgery.
9.21.2006 11:48pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Peg: My son's AB- too. You can bet I've snagged your e-mail address, just in case...
9.22.2006 12:13am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Pub editor. I was not suggesting that anybody thought a kid should be on the spot every fifty-six days. I was making the point that there is a physiological cost even to a single donation which is probably more easily borne by someone who has finished growing.
I believe the ordinary draw takes about one-twelfth of the supply of the average adult. Either we take a higher percentage of the supply of a kid, unless he's pretty big for a kid, or we get a smaller amount, for the same cost. The sharps and tubing are expensive. At one time, I was donating some other kind of precious bodily fluid for the manufacture of interferon. It was a considerably more complicated procedure. The tech told me the plumbing, single-use, was $600 per donor. And this was twenty years ago. The traditional draw is less, but still expensive.
Bad idea. Besides, let's presume that the blood draw takes, say, 5% of the blood supply of a kid. Is there any lawyer here who wouldn't jump at the chance to sue a pharma whose meds temporarily reduced a kid's hemoglobin by 5%? I thought not. Hell, there are suits going forward now that couldn't have happened until analytic techniques could find one EEEEVILL molecule among a jillion and juries could be selected for extreme suggestibility.
I think we can take it as a given that any lawyer would be tearing his lapels at the thought of the loss of 5% of the hemoglobin of a kid--if there was money in it. In this context, 5% is a BIG DEAL. Remember your principles: Don't have your kid do something that you would sue over if somebody else allowed him to do it.
9.22.2006 12:22am
lala:
I donated in HS a couple of times. I was 16 when I started and needed a signed permission slip from my mom so I could donate (for just that year, I think).

Also, while a teen may not want to admit to certain things in front of the nurse, they do give you an option to anonymously tell them whether they should use your blood at the very end. Plus a card with a phone number to call just in case along with the very easy excuse of "I have a cold" since they don't want to take any blood that might be contaminated with West Nile.

Either we take a higher percentage of the supply of a kid, unless he's pretty big for a kid, or we get a smaller amount, for the same cost.

I'm not entirely sure what's meant here but I don't think they can use the blood if they don't get a full unit (about a pint). The bags are pre-packaged with preservatives and other things. I had a particularly bad blood draw once, one of my HS experiences in fact, that ended up with them not getting a full pint. Not only did I get tortured by an idiot with a needle but I didn't even get to feel like it was worth it in the end.

As for the size of the kid, again that would be something that is caught in the screening phase because they have to check the weight/blood pressure of the person donating. There are many adults who don't fulfill these requirements.
9.22.2006 6:31am
DaveHeal (mail):
I can think of a couple rules that make a person ineligable to donate, but which a child might not want to admit to in front of a parent ( such as IV drug use or homosexual activity ). This could encourage children to donate when their blood is not safe, just so they don't have to explain to their parents why they are not donating.


FYI, I've worked for the Red Cross and have donated blood countless times (both my parents are hematologists; it kind of comes with the territory) and each person donating blood is often taken into a private room or behind a screen and given information about which activities (anal sex, blowing fat coke lines off of the toilets at swanky clubs, travel to the Baja peninsula, including but not limited to vacations that involve having sexual relations with the local flora and/or fauna) would make it dangerous for them to donate. The Red Cross employee then leaves the donor alone and instructs them to place one barcode signifying they're fit to donate and one barcode signifying their blood should be thrown out. The blood is taken either way and this self-screening process is confidential, and although I don't have direct experience with what is done with minors, I would imagine the same procedure is followed.
9.22.2006 8:33am
bwilliamsdc:
Oh, the Red Cross.

I donated a number of times with my dad at age 17, and then came to college in DC. Donated last at age 18 and then my sexuality + an informed, safe, and consenting sexual act led to the end of blood donation forever.

Dave, I don't believe the "barcode system" is in use at the national headquarters of the Red Cross in Washington, DC. They instead employ a checklist that you must first fill out and then a Red Cross employee reads it over and questions you directly regarding any "yes" checks. In my appointment, it went something like this:

Red Cross: Uh... sir... you checked the men... with men box.
Me: Yes, I did.
Red Cross: Oh... ok... so you meant to check it?
Me: Yes.... yes I did.
Red Cross: You won't be able to donate today. Our records show you last donated September 11th. Were you doing this kind of stuff then?
Me: No, I hadn't yet done this kind of stuff then, and I appreciate the mature and frank terms you're using.
Red Cross: ...
9.22.2006 10:15am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
To what extent would I be legally allowed to engage in this sort of parental education?

It wasn't clear from your language that you were talking about actual current blood donation by children rather than parental teaching favoring future blood donation. Rhetorically too cute.

BTW, is this a new libertarian maneuver to overcome charges of selfishness. First Virginia Postrel donates a kidney and you donate blood.
9.22.2006 10:43am
DaveHeal (mail):
Red Cross: Uh... sir... you checked the men... with men box.
Me: Yes, I did.
Red Cross: Oh... ok... so you meant to check it?
Me: Yes.... yes I did.
Red Cross: You won't be able to donate today. Our records show you last donated September 11th. Were you doing this kind of stuff then?
Me: No, I hadn't yet done this kind of stuff then, and I appreciate the mature and frank terms you're using.
Red Cross: ...


Yikes, yeah, not exactly as anonymous and non-clumsy as a piece of paper with two barcodes on it. I would have expected that treatment in suburban Rochester, NY and expected the barcode business at a larger operation, but oh well. Although maybe he was just doing due diligence, as many potential blood donors are nervous and might therefore have checked the 'men with men' box after a nerves-induced muscle spasm? Yeah, that must have been what was happening.
9.22.2006 10:49am
eddie (mail):
I do not see how a law whose purpose is to protect the rights of a child regarding making a decision about a procedure that does have some risks is an intrusion on a parent's right to provide "moral education".

The rule does not prohibit you from encouraging blood donation when the appropriate age is reached. The rule does not prohibit setting an example for the child by your own donations. So is this really a complaint about morality and education or some more ancient concept of "property rights" over one's issue?
9.22.2006 11:10am
lucia (mail) (www):
bwilliamsdc describes the system used at the center where I donate. A person goes over the form with you. I always check yes to "Have you been to Europe in the past 10 years". They always ask details, afterwards I'm approved. (I have no idea what the concern is. Mad Cow? Visiting bordellos in Amsterdam?)
9.22.2006 12:00pm
dejapooh (mail):
My 6 year old son became very interested in blood and injuries and so on, so I called my local red cross to see if he could watch me donate. They said it wasn't allowed. I thought it would be a great way to capture some of his curiousity... but no.
9.22.2006 1:05pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Eddie: If you look closely at the post, you'll find that I'm talking about persuading my children to donate, and then giving consent to their doing so, not using their blood as my "property" to give away without their agreement.

As to education, I thought it was a commonplace that sometimes an effective form of education -- including moral education -- is to have the student do something, and not just hear something. The process of donating blood is, I would hope, something of a morally educational experience. Perhaps it's an experience that shouldn't be allowed for under-15-year-olds (though despite the comments about health risk of donation, my sense is that there's little reason for such a legal prohibition). Perhaps simply telling the child about the virtues of blood donation, and teaching by my own example, is an adequate substitute for educating by having him donate himself. But none of this undermines the fact that having him actually donate himself would be a form of educational experience.
9.22.2006 4:49pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
First Virginia Postrel donates a kidney and you donate blood. Instapundit today links to postrel's
http://www.dynamist.com/weblog/archives/002268.html
9.22.2006 8:47pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
EV. I presume your child is reasonably intelligent. How could he not be? And, considering his mother, he must be good-looking.

Is he autistically literal? Why not donate, bring home a pamphlet, show him the bandaid on your arm? He could probably make the connection, both as to the physical and the moral issues.

If not, you have worse problems.
9.23.2006 10:54pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
I am tentatively in favor of allowing obviously enthusiastic older teenagers with parental consent to donate blood, but I would be concerned, even with a 15/16 year old, that the whole thing was more of Dad's idea than the kid's. I mean, my parents had all kinds of great ideas that I went along with but frankly upset and in at least one case actually injured me; my history with doctors (including one who thought it a good idea to surprise me with a needle seconds before injecting it into my face, on the grounds that it'd be less traumatic if I didn't know it was about to happen) similarly leads me to mistrust the motives of most adults in regards to all kinds of things that are done or could be done to children. One could argue that elective medical procedures of all sorts, that do not result in major added value if you do them before the age of 18, ought to be prohibited until the individual has at least the legal autonomy (if not financial or emotional) that comes with adulthood. I mean, if my beloved Daddy who is the biggest hero in the world to me always tells me that I really really really ought to donate blood, and by the way Daddy (who always pays for everything,) wakes me up on Saturday for the super-special "just us" trip to the blood bank, and has been pushing the issue since I was a toddler, the act itself isn't so much a matter of education as it is a matter of consumating a long pattern of indoctrination. And it really isn't a matter of an informed choice on the part of the kid.

(I'm generally not in favor of piercings and tattoos for children, either, though my inherent "don't ban things" mentality comes into conflict with that position. I don't think I'd take a 15 year old to donate blood, outside of a desperate need.)
9.24.2006 12:02am
Sparky:
I always understood that the age restriction was strictly about blood volume -- one pint is a greater percentage of a child's total blood volume than an adult's. If it was about informed consent, then surely the age limit would be 18, not 17?

Also, I agree with those commenters who have suggested that the best way to encourage a child to donate is to be a role model cum propagandist. I took this approach, and my daughter, completely on her own, donated in a high school blood drive the very first time she was eligible. [/parental brag]
9.25.2006 1:37pm