On 01 March 2012 all the provisions of the National Health Act, Act 61 of 2003, (“the Act”) came into effect and accordingly the Minister in terms of section 90(1) read with section 68(1) promulgated Regulation GNR. 180 of 2 March 2012: Regulations: General control of human bodies, tissue, blood, blood products and gametes (Government Gazette No.35099) (“Regulation 180”). In terms of Regulation 180 read with section 56 of the Act, blood may not be withdrawn from persons under the age of 18 years (“minors”) without consent from the parent/guardian of minors.
Noting that previously blood donors from the age of 16 years and older could donate blood without parental consent, and that 16 -17 year old blood donors contribute significantly to blood donations in South Africa, the Western Province Blood Transfusion Service (WPBTS) and the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) made numerous representations to the National Department of Health to reconsider this legislation in order to maintain a sufficient blood supply.
A meeting was held with the Minister of Health on 8 March 2016 where it was confirmed that:
- The Blood Services were of the view that it was essential for the Blood Services to continue collecting blood from donors aged 16 and above without parental consent. Not only did this allow valuable educational opportunities on leading a safe lifestyle (including the practice of safe sex), it also encouraged a philosophy of donation which then extended into later years. All schools at which blood was collected from learners heavily supported the cause of blood donation and recognised the voluntary, altruistic motive as being an important part of societal value development in those of an age most receptive to such values.
- The minimum age of consent for blood donation did not appear to be logical in terms of the ages of consent for other medical or diagnostic procedures.
- Reduced access to the younger blood donor population would put the Blood Services under increased pressure to provide sufficient safe blood.
The Blood Services’ request was for the Minister of Health to amend Regulation 180 and reduce the age of donation under own consent to 16 years. The Minister committed to amend the Regulation, subject to due legal process and public comment which was communicated in Government Gazette no 39982 on 11 May 2016. Comments were dealt with by the National Department of Health, and the revised Regulation was published in Government Gazette no 40700 on 17 March 2017.
Accordingly, with immediate effect, blood donors aged 16 years and older may donate blood under their own consent.
Questions or clarification regarding the legislation may be directed to Dr’s Greg Bellairs or Caroline Hilton of WPBTS at 021 507 6300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.