Rural blood availability: regulations must meet ethics

Yogesh Jain, Raman Kataria

Abstract

Rural physicians have been practising the technique of emergency bleeding and transfusion called Unbanked Directed (to a specific recipient) Blood Transfusion (UDBT), which has been declared illegal, to meet the need for blood in rural and inaccessible areas. As a result, a crisis has emerged in the availability of blood. Is UDBT a second rate technology for the poor and the disadvantaged? And should we not rather advocate for rapid scaling up of the establishment of blood banks in all areas? We examine the ethical issues related to blood availability in the rural areas. We argue that a regulated and licensed UDBT passes muster on the ethical principles of beneficence, lack of maleficence, justice and Swaraj. Using this issue as a case in point, we further examine the idea of what constitutes appropriate or acceptable technology. While affirming that any technology has to pass muster on a litmus test of acceptability, we discuss the difference between “ideal” and “acceptable” (but less than ideal) technology. We argue there is a dynamic push and pull between the urge to regulate and restrict the use of skills by all versus the need to communitise technology. Regulated use of UDBT will allow blood to be available where it is needed most in the foreseeable future in India.

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