Blood donation age lowered

Amelia Raether

Unlike next week’s NHS Blood Drive, where only 17 and 18 year old students are allowed to donate blood, next year’s drives will expand to include 16 year olds. Governor Tim Pawlenty signed a bill in late March, allowing 16 year olds to donate blood, as long as they have parental permission.

Joe Gibson, a sophomore at Blooming Prairie High School, introduced this idea after being rejected at a school blood drive, wanting to donate blood for his grandfather who had cancer.

Gibson sent a petition asking the state to lower the age requirement to his representative Patti Fritz, who has since taken an active role in passing this bill.

Taking effect on July 1, 2008, sophomores and juniors who are 16 will be eligible to donate blood during BSM’s fall Blood Drive.

Dr. Jed Gorlin, the Medical Director at Memorial Blood Center, explained the positive effects of this bill for Minnesota blood banks. “This allows us to draw blood from younger students and will expand our blood pool,” he said.

Although the change will be legal in July, Memorial Blood Center, which is the blood bank BSM uses, won’t actively recruit 16 year olds until the fall high school season due to the forms and paperwork, Gorlin said.

“Only about one third of all Americans are eligible to donate blood with all of the restrictions, so this should help increase the blood bank by opening it up to younger students,” said Gorlin.

When Gibson originally proposed this idea, he wanted to move the age down to 15, and some State Representatives agree. However, doctors, including Dr. Gorlin, from Memorial Blood Center, the Red Cross, and the Mayo Clinic determined that 15 year olds were more prone to fainting, as they have less blood and smaller body weights. Students who have bad experiences are less likely to be repeat donors, therefore harming both the students and the blood centers, said Gorlin.

“This could potentially significantly increase our blood supply, and we rely a lot on blood raised from school drives,” said Gorlin.

Minnesota is now the fifteenth state to allow 16 year olds to donate blood.