Blood Transfusion Service working on transgender solution

IT tests succeed in changing name of trans donor woman in ‘test environment’

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service said: “Because a donor’s gender will have an impact on how donated blood is used for patients, changing that gender may have safety implication for recipient. Photograph: Tek Image

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service said: “Because a donor’s gender will have an impact on how donated blood is used for patients, changing that gender may have safety implication for recipient. Photograph: Tek Image

 

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has said it is working on a long-term IT solution for recording a person’s preferred gender after a transgender woman battled for a year to have her details changed on its computer systems.

Aoife Martin from Louth, a transgender woman who has given blood almost 30 times, last year sought to have male details on the blood service’s systems changed in order that she may present as female.

The service then asked her to travel from Dundalk to the National Blood Centre (NBC) in Dublin to discuss her eligibility to give blood and advised her not to donate in the meantime.

Ms Martin said at the time that as someone who had given blood for more than 20 years, she was very disappointed with the attitude of the IBTS.

The service wrote to Ms Martin on August 25th last to say it had now succeeded in changing her name and gender in a “test” environment.

In the letter, the IBTS apologised that it had taken so long to get to this stage and said it had originally hoped a validated IT solution would be available that could be applied to all transgender donors that would ensure that no unintended consequences occurred as a result of the gender change.

‘No issue’

In a statement, the service said there was “no issue” with donors changing name.

“This occurs on a regular basis when individuals marry, divorce or change their name by deed poll. However, changing a donor’s gender has proved more challenging,” it said.

The body said it was its responsibility to ensure the safety of the blood supply and thus the safety of recipients of blood and blood components.

“Because a donor’s gender will have an impact on how donated blood is used for patients, changing that gender may have safety implication for recipients. In addition, the IBTS must ensure that there is full traceability of all components donated by an individual.”

The impact of such an IT change must be “fully explored to ensure there are no unintended consequences”.

“These issues are currently being assessed by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service in terms of safe use and full traceability of donations and management of individual donors; this will require the development of a longer-term IT strategy for transgender donors,” it said.

“These issues have been raised at an international level with the providers and other users of the IT system used by the IBTS. It is hoped that this will assist in the development of international best practice guidelines, which will facilitate blood donation by transgender donors while ensuring the safety of blood recipients.”

Disappointment

Ms Martin said while she was glad the issue, while “not quite there yet” was finally reaching a conclusion, she could not help but express disappointment that it took over a year to reach this stage.

“As someone who works in IT, I understand that various scenarios need to be tested before being put into a live system but to take over a year to get to this point is not ideal,” she said.

“I am also disappointed to see that there is still no policy in place for dealing with the transgender community and that any trans people will be dealt with on a ‘case by case basis’.

“I hope that any trans people reading this will take some comfort in knowing that their name and gender can be changed on the system, but it’s something they may have to fight for.”