Donation of blood in Lagos hospitals is illegal, court declares

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Justice Raliat Adebiyi of Ikeja High Court has declared that donation of blood by relations of patients in all hospitals in Lagos State is illegal and violation of the rights of the donors.

She made the declaration on Tuesday while delivering judgment in a suit, number ID/2759GCM/2018 filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) against the state governments and all governments hospitals in the state.

Justice Adebiyi held: “Demanding compulsory blood donation from those seeking medical attention including maternity services, is arbitrary, unfair and a violation of their human rights including the rights to life and to equal opportunity for everyone within the health system.”

The court also ordered the Lagos State Government to immediately stop and discontinue the policy of insisting on compulsory blood donations from patients or relatives of those seeking medical care and attention before accessing ante-natal, maternal or any health services in all public hospitals and health facilities in Lagos State.

Following the judgment, SERAP has requested Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to “instruct the Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi to immediately, fully and effectively enforce the judgment stopping all Lagos hospitals and health facilities from demanding compulsory blood donations from any patients or their relatives as precondition for medical attention either in antenatal and maternal or any other health services.

In an open letter dated March 3, 2020 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “the enforcement of the judgment will be a special moment for the implementation of the government’s strategies towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.

The organisation also stated that it will improve the chances of everyone including women during and after childbirth, and ensure quality health services, which will contribute to the promotion of these goals.

SERAP said: “As Justice Adebiyi stated in her judgment, your enforcement of the judgment will be consistent with Section 33 of Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), which guarantees the right to life; and articles 2(a),3 and 12(1) of the International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, which requires the health system including in Lagos State to provide equal opportunity for everyone. Nigeria has ratified the covenant.”

The letter reads in part: “The enforcement of the judgment will also show Lagos State as a champion of the SDGs and be entirely consistent with international standards and best practices, including those developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which recognise that the safest blood donors are voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors.

“The WHO has in fact recommended that no coercion should be brought to bear upon the donor to donate.

Pints of blood
Pints of blood

“The effective enforcement of the judgment will also improve maternal health, comply with WHO’s policy to improve the availability and use of safe blood to save the lives of women during and after childbirth, as well as ensure universal access to safe blood transfusion particularly for patients that are vulnerable to blood shortages and to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections, in support of the SDGs”.

SERAP expressed hope that for a directive from the governor to the Commissioner for health, Professor Abayomi will help to enforce and ensure implementation of Justice Adebiyi’s judgment.

It assured Lagos State government, Professor Abayomi and the Lagos State Ministry of Health of improved working relationship in their efforts to enforce and implement the judgment.

“We would be happy to provide further information or to discuss any of these issues in more detail with you,” it added.

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