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Do you think 16-year-olds should be able to give blood without parental consent?

Asked at Borders, 700 N.H. on July 28, 2006

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Photo of Jean Schrader

“Yes, because they test the blood for any health problems that they may not be tested for otherwise, and it would increase the community blood supply.”

Photo of Kristi McAlister-Harms

“I would say yes. They’re not endangering anyone or themselves, if it’s at a reputable place, and it teaches them to help others.”

Photo of Brent Wallis

“I don’t see a problem with that. I think 16 is old enough to know the problems associated with donating blood.”

Photo of Robert Lagerstrom

“No. I don’t think they are at the age to make an informed decisions about the risks involved or what they might be passing along.”

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Fangorn 11 years, 10 months ago

For me, the operative phrase here is "without parental consent". That being the case, I say absolutely not. I would imagine that most parents, myself included, would give permission for donation. But parents who have concerns or objections should be able to make that decision for their underaged children. Our laws confer adult status at the age of eighteen (voting, ability to sign contracts, even legally buy cigarettes, etc.). I think after turning 18 the parents should not be able to prevent them from donating. I know it's only two years, but they are really critical years in the moral/ethical development of children becoming adults.

neopolss 11 years, 10 months ago

If the law doesn't recognize an adult until 18, then 18 it is. Fangorn, I'm with you. I'm sure many will have no objections, but just the same, it seems only respectful to have a parental slip or a parent present.

Fangorn 11 years, 10 months ago

blue73harley: There are some religious belief systems that object to the transfusion of blood. The Jehovah's Witnesses are one of these. While I don't believe their objection has a solid biblical basis, I would support their right to make this decision for their children. Obviously at some point a person gains the authority to make these kinds of decisions for themselves. I believe, for a number of reasons, that their eighteenth birthday is that point.

It is insightful for you to suggest that a health issue unknown to the child might also be a reason. I wouldn't have thought of that. If the child is 16, the parents may need to starting telling them what they'll need to know as adults to make informed health choices (e.g. you are adopted and your biological father died of a heart attack at age 45).

sgtwolverine 11 years, 10 months ago

Blue, it is less important to come up with a reason parents might not want their kids to donate and more important that they might have their reasons. Some will have them (both reasons and kids!), and in such cases it is their prerogative to forbid blood donation.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 10 months ago

Do they need parental consent to get a driver's license? Which is riskier: driving, or blood donation?

I think there is a typo. It should read "Robert Lagerstrom, not-a-donor, Eudora". He's living in 1983. He must think they use a shop vac from an AIDS shelter to remove the blood.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 10 months ago

OldEnuf, I don't know how the laws in Kansas work, but up here in Michigan, we have a graduated license system, and I'm pretty sure 16-year-olds can't work toward a license without their parents or guardian.

However, if they wait until they're 18, they can get a license without worrying about the graduated system or their parents.

justathought 11 years, 10 months ago

do the jehovah's object to the giving of blood or just reciving it into their bodies?

RonBurgandy 11 years, 10 months ago

Only if they can participate in foodball.

(For those thinking I made a typo, enlarge the picture of the new practice facility and football offices).

feeble 11 years, 10 months ago

You can try someone as young as 10 as an adult in kansas, via Judical Waiver, for any criminal offense.

(The terminology for judicial waiver varies from state to state; some call it "certification," "remand," or "bind over" for criminal prosecution.).

If you can try 'em as an adult (and by extension make them reponsible for their conduct like an adult) then they deserve the rights of an adult.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 10 months ago

It's a good thing it's blood donation -- otherwise they'd add more sales tax to it.

jayhawks71 11 years, 10 months ago

The bigger issue is why blood centers issue these cries for blood, but then when you look at the hours they are open, you see a glaring reason why they have problem getting donors in the door. A large segment of the population is at work during the times they are open!

The Lawrence centers hours: Monday - Thursday 9:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. Friday 8:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Open 1st, 3rd and 5th Saturday 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

At least they are open some Saturdays!

Fangorn 11 years, 10 months ago

just-a-thought: Honestly, I do not know if JWs object to giving blood. I do know they object to receiving transfusions. It seems consistent that if they think receiving a transfusion is morally wrong, they wouldn't engage in actions that would encourage others to receive transfusion (i.e. donating blood). I will see if I can find out for you. It's a relevant question.

feeble: The fact that a judicial waiver is needed to try an underage person as an adult implies that extraordinary circumstances must exist to do so, that it is not a routine matter to try minors as adults. What extraordinary circumstance could you imagine that would justify a judge overriding a parent's wishes regarding their children donating blood?

R_I: I agree with you that a 16-year-old who would want to donate blood is likely to have parents who would support that decision. When my children are old enough to donate safely I would gladly give permission. I have experience as a phlebotomist; I could even perform the venepuncture to start the donation. // btw, was your 9:01 post serious or facetious?

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 10 months ago

What's the deal? This isn't bungie-jumping or joining the marines... it's putting a sterile needle in your arm and giving a little blood. Unless they are a hemopheliac, WHAT EXACTLY IS THE RISK?

That's why I was bagging on "Robert's" statement above. If my 16 year old can be trusted to walk home from school alone, then they can give blood. They ask you a million questions about your health and stuff. What's the big deal?

BTW: is that blood place still behind McDonalds? What do they pay?

remember_username 11 years, 10 months ago

Yes and No. Without parental consent implies to me that the child's parents need not be informed. Does a 16 year old child, who has been entrusted with a drivers license and been deemed old enough to give sexual consent, have the maturity to give consent to donate blood? Yes.

However, and I know this will raise a red flag with other liberals, but there is an important issue that should be considered. Up until adulthood a child's parent is the "compiler" of the child's medical history. The pediatrician, other specialists, dentists, and pharmacists, rarely share information or the child's records with each other. They often rely upon the parent for an accurate history at the time of an exam and as mentioned previously often the child may not have complete information. Adulthood in Kansas is considered to be age 18 (up to 19 if still a full time student) unless the state has granted emancipation. Until there is a central depository of medical history data accessible by health care professionals the child's parent will be responsible for maintaining that data. Thus the parent must be "informed" of anything that involves the child's health, and this includes blood donation. Here's where I get into trouble that also includes parental notification requirements for "other procedures" (insert your own political hot potato here).

Fangorn 11 years, 10 months ago

just-a-thought: JWs do not donate blood. At least they do not have ecclesiastical permission to do so, but I would imagine that some still donate anyway. Read this article on wikipedia, always a useful site.'s_Witnesses_and_blood

oldenuf: ZLB Plasma Services, a Swiss company, still operates on 24th Street. Donor fees are based on the amount of plasma collected, which is regulated by the FDA based on the weight of the donor. // There are some risks involved with blood or plasma donation, although they are generally mild. Vasodepressor reactions are the most common and are easily treated. Some people will also have physical or psychological reactions to the needle. Transmission of actual disease, either to or by the donor, is extremely rare.

blessed3x 11 years, 10 months ago

They can get abortions without parental notification, why can't they give blood?

Fangorn 11 years, 10 months ago

remember_username: It's good to see your comments. I was absent for several months and haven't seen you since I started posting again.

Jayhawk226 11 years, 10 months ago

Sorry, unrelated topic:

KS Supreme Court just rendered the legislative branch did indeed adaquately fund the public schools.

The case has been dismissed.

canyon_wren 11 years, 10 months ago

Unless I overlooked it, I don't see any poster differentiating between just donating blood to the Red Cross, for example, and SELLING one's blood to some of the outfits who buy it. My impression (and not based on a whole lot of fact or experience, I admit) is that there exists a collection of "blood buyers"--particularly in bigger cities--who may not always be reputable. I think there must be some risk involved for people who are tempted financially, to "sell" their blood to get out of a tight spot, financially. I would worry a great deal about the possibility of an impetuous 16-year old finding this way to get money. Am I 'way out in left field with this concern?

as_I_live_and_breathe 11 years, 10 months ago

why wouldn't a kid tell their parents they were donating blood? I mean I understand kids don't tell EVERY THING but ?? this is pretty inconsequetial, it's not like they are killing your grandbaby. Why not just say.. "oh btw, I'm stopping at the clinic after school to drain a pint, pick up some extra juice, I'm going to need it."

remember_username 11 years, 10 months ago

Fangorn - I've been scanning the posts last few months but have been too distracted to contribute.

oldenuf2Byurdad - The age for selling plasma is still 18. Also, there are some very slight risks in donating blood, mostly short term, and the questions asked are meant to reduce risk to the donor as well as the supply. How many 16 year olds do you know that may be truthful with strangers regarding substance abuse or sexual history? How many would donate just under 10% of blood volume then go to football practice in 90 deg temperatures, positive they won't be affected?

Fangorn 11 years, 10 months ago

canyon_wren: Your concerns regarding "blood buyers" are unnecessary. The plasma industry is regulated by the FDA. Inspections are annual or biennial, depending on the results of the previous inspection. In addition, some centers are certified by the German Health Authority, which has even stricter standards than the FDA. GHA certification is considered an achievement. Additionally, one must be 18 to give plasma (and weigh at least 110 pounds), as well as go through a medical screening process before each donation. Every unit of plasma is tested for viral markers before it is even allowed to be shipped from the local center (a reactive test result will require the unit - and all units from that donor for that last year - to be destroyed.) Plasma is usually stored (frozen) for a year before being manufactured into anything. I hope this allays any concerns you have.

canyon_wren 11 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for the information, Fangorn! I assume those blood buying centers in cities all fall into this category or you wouldn't be mentioning it.

Remember-username says "How many 16 year olds do you know that may be truthful with strangers regarding substance abuse or sexual history?" I guess that is true of "of-age" donors as well, and that is why the donated blood is so thoroughly (we hope) screened before use. But obviously there will be more and more things we will find that are NOT screened for YET--that donors don't even know they carry. That is unrelated to the question, I realize.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 10 months ago

I think we're coming from the wrong direction. So: why should minors be able to donate without parental permission? Not why they shouldn't, but why they should.

canyon_wren 11 years, 10 months ago

You're right, sgtwolverine. We ARE coming at this from the wrong direction.

Everyone in society is so "hung up" on whether we can tell the young people what to do in ANY way. That is where much of our problems lie. Just another effort to take away the opportunity for GOOD parents to exercise some judgment and control over what their (relatively) immature children do, simply because there are SOME over-zealous and controlling parents out there. Parents' rights are being denied more and more frequently by the government who thinks it knows what is best for their children.

BunE 11 years, 10 months ago

Parents have way to many rights over their children. Either develop a parental relationship that reflects positively on your children and teaches them to act positively or get out of the way. If you must "rule" your kid, you have lost already.

To the question, if a 16 year old wants to give blood, fine. That age seems to be right around the average that humans seem to understand the longterm ramifications of their actions.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 10 months ago

BunE, you seem to have a very optimistic view of children. And high schoolers.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 10 months ago

"Up until adulthood a child's parent is the "compiler" of the child's medical history."

But come on, how much is one's medical history being impacted by a blood donation? This is a "medical history" issue about as much as getting a band-aid from a school nurse is "medical history".

I totall disagree with BunE's statement "Parents have way to many rights over their children." I would say that parents need to have control over the things that impact their children, but WHAT exactly is the impact of giving blood in the highly-regulated environment in which this is being done in the U.S.?

R. Username: I grew up a block away from a blood donor place in Wichita. EVERYONE going in there was a user. The average American teen is no more a "disclosure risk" than those who are already donating plasma in our major cities. They donation system we have in place deals with these issues very well.

badger 11 years, 10 months ago

On blood and plasma 'selling' - I did it for years in college to make ends meet. With the automated machines, you can literally watch them pull a needle out of its original packaging, watch them unwrap and install a one-time-use sterilized centrifuge container (the only part of the machine that the blood you get back ever touches), and watch your blood come out, spin, and go right back in without ever being more than three feet from you. The 'inherent risk' is fluid loss, which you can replace, and the same risks you have donating blood (bad reaction at needle site increased marginally by the presence of an anticoagulant, fainting, low blood pressure, whatnot).

I was always furious that they wouldn't let me donate at 16 in high school, even with parental consent (then, it was '17 with parental consent, or over 18').

To those who talk about how a 16-year-old might not know the risks of something he or she would pass on, they're just as likely as a 19-year-old to know, honestly. That's why there's a questionnaire and why the blood is tested. A 16-year-old is no more likely to have had a blood transfusion she doesn't know about than a 25-year-old is to have a wife who cheated on him with someone HIV+.

I agree, there are risks associated with donating blood. You can have a bad reaction to the needle, you can have a low blood pressure episode and pass out, you can throw up at the sight of your own blood and get vomit in your sock. Those risks seem to happen regardless of age, and the blood donation staff is trained to recognize them and respond to them.

I guess what I really don't see is the point of the graduated system. If you can give blood at 16 with parental consent, why not 15? 13? 12? At 13, I was taller and heavier than a lot of adults, and met all the donation criteria. My mom would have been happy to let me donate.

If you're going to require parental consent for those under 18, then drop the age requirement entirely and let kids who meet the health critieria donate at any age. If you're going to say that somehow something changes at 16 that you can safely donate blood (given the incredible range of speeds at which development progresses between 12 and 21, I can't see '16' as anything but an arbitrary choice), then assume that the same thing that differentiates a 15 year old from a 16 year old on giving blood also differentiates them on consenting to blood donation, and let them donate without parental consent.

With driving, there's a graduated system because it's a set of learned skills that require supervised training. It's not a very good comparison to giving blood, because there is no graduated set of skills. Either you can answer questions and bleed when your veins are opened, or you can't. Set one age. Above it, you can give without consent. Below it, you have to have consent. That makes much more sense to me.

guppypunkhead 11 years, 10 months ago

Badger- this cracked me up...

" can throw up at the sight of your own blood and get vomit in your sock."

That is a terrible side effect. Heh.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 10 months ago

16 is a hard age but most 16yr olds realize the need for blood donation and they do understand risks involved. I would much rather find out that a 16 yr old donated blood without telling their parents then went out and had sex or an abortion or was drinking and driving. I would be proud of my child for doing this as I am unable to do so.

beatrice 11 years, 10 months ago

RI's 9:01 post is way funny!

I agree with fangorn, and the age badger suggests should be 18. That seems appropriate.

I also am not surprised to see some people comparing this with abortions and consent for those under 18, but there are differences. I suspect one difference is that very rarely has a girl been beaten by her father or thrown out of the house for having blood and not capable of (or willing)keeping it. Even rarer still has a girl been given blood through an incestuous relationship, thus requiring her to get consent from the same incestuous blood "donor" before she could rid her body of this unwanted blood.

Fangorn 11 years, 10 months ago

BunE: I thought about you at a birthday party I attended a week or so ago. I had to explain to the other guests how vanilla ice cream could be the foundation for world peace. :)

R_I makes two good points, one indirectly, the other directly. First, the time to ask this question would have been before the legislature made a decision. Second, talking to your children now about why donating blood is important (or why you believe it's wrong) may prevent conflict later.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 10 months ago

On C-SPAN right now: Congress is debating whether or not 15 year-olds need parental consent before choosing a toilet paper with which to wipe their bums.

The ACLU argues that it's a freedom of speech issue...

sgtwolverine 11 years, 10 months ago

Hey, OldEnuf, I hear next on the agenda is 12-year-olds and facial tissue.

fletch 11 years, 10 months ago

Wait a second. Put on the breaks. Those of you who are saying that you wouldn't let a 16 year old give blood without first getting parental consent, despite the fact that almost every single parent in the universe would say yes? Aren't you the same people in all the other threads railing against government and bureaucracy and red tape? What gives? Jesus, it's like you'll take any prompt to complain.

You can drive a car at 16. A giant, speeding lump of metal that can do a lot of damage. I think it's perfectly safe for you to give blood. Heck, on that 16 year old's driver's license you can even check a little box to be an organ donor. In my book, you should be able to give blood. Hell, you'd be going through the same safety checks everybody else goes through when they donate their blood, so it's not like they're going to "infect" the blood supply with your youthful vigor and disrespect of their elders.

nonsmoker 11 years, 10 months ago

Ok, so the Kansas legistlature has determined my 16 yr. old can give blood without consent, but he cannot get a Acetaminophen from the school nurse without signed consent, or buy a lottery ticket with his own money even with parental consent? I was told they cannot be given Acetaminophen for a headache since they are not old enough to give authorization for their care should there be a problem. Last I saw it was more dangerous to give blood (especially for the first time) then to take Acetaminophen at the proper dosage. It's becoming quite difficult to determine what kids are and aren't able to do legally at what age!!! I was at the gas station and my 16 yr old wanted a lottery ticket, so I had him step up to buy it, and was told I had to hand the clerk the money, my son wasn't old enough!! So, they are old enough to possibly endanger their life (albeit a small possibility), but not waste their money! It seemed almost funny, I had to take the dollar from my son, give it to the clerk, get the ticket, and hand it to my son. It wasn't enough that I was standing behind him to "authorize it". As far as donating blood, I would encourage my son to donate if he desires, but I would want to be there the first time, incase there are problems. I personally have been donating consistently for 6 years now, and have seen others who have had difficulties their first time donating. It does seem stressful on the body. I definitely would not equate it to "getting a bandaid from the school nurse."

BunE 11 years, 10 months ago

MMMMMMnillers. Would a whole bunck of Vanilla Ice Cream dropped on the Flint Hills solve global warming?

I don't have a high opinion of minors, I just have a low opinion of a great many parents.

To clarify, I guess I am less concerned whether a parent rules with an iron fist. Rather, have they communicated and transferred their value system to their children and taught them to be adults? Conversely, have they just told them to be adults only to be surprised when they make bad decisions. By the time someone is 16, we have a glimpse of the woman or man that person will become.

Control is the wrong word. My bad.

I still think that if a 16 year old wants to give blood, that is cool.

Ronnie 11 years, 10 months ago

I believe the change in age requirement is likely to have an extremely positive outcome. When I was fifthteen one of my siblings was diagnosed with an aggressive and rare type of bone cancer (osteosarcoma). Her treatment consisted of 18 rounds of chemotherapy, which lead to enormous amounts of lab work, and increased the need for blood transfusions and platelets. She also had to have major surgery to replace her femur with a prosthesis, including a new knee joint and hip joint (which was the 2nd time that surgery has ever been performed). During the incredibly invasive surgery a lot of blood was lost, she recieved immense amounts of blood from donors. If that blood hadn't been on hand it most likely would have cost her life. My older siblings were able to donate blood specifically for her to recieve but do to my age I could not (I was sixteen when she had her surgery). She is healthy and has been in remission for over a year, but knowing how important it is my entire family still donates to help others out in positions where blood transfusions are necessary. I hope that people can find it in their hearts that this is helping people and saving many lives. If a sixteen yearold is mature enough to realize what good it brings, than why shouldn't they be able to donate blood without parental consent? I also hope that if your child chose on their own to do so, whether they told you or not that you would still find it in some way honorable of them to be so generous.

So when analyzing the pros and cons of the slight drop in age requirement, please do not let greed and control interfere.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 10 months ago

Fletch, for me this is not about government regulation -- it's about parents having some authority in their 16-year-olds' lives. It's not about forbidding blood donation by a 16-year-old; it's about making sure the people who are still legally responsible for that 16-year-old are okay with it.

I also am of the opinion that 16 is usually too young to drive (or at least without direct supervision), but I may be in the minority there.

Anyway, as has been pointed out, this is sort of an irrelevant, after-the-fact discussion, but hey, it's what's in front of me.

Fangorn 11 years, 10 months ago

Multidisciplinary speaks from ignorance. Call ZLB Plasma Services at 749-5750. Listen to the whole message, then press 3 from additional information for new donors. The message is very thorough. I should know. I wrote it four years ago. Compare the information given with MD's claims of ingorance or (implied) deception. If MD didn't know to eat beforehand or how long the process takes, it's only because he/she didn't bother to check ahead of time.

Vasodepressor reactions as severe as described above are very rare. All the risks of donating, including vasodepressor reactions, citrate reactions, and hemotomas, are all described to the potential donor ahead of time. They have a chance to ask questions. They sign forms acknowledging the information they've been given. If a donor says they feel ill or looks pale, the first thing the biotechs do is stop the collection cycle and return the red cells (to increase central blood volume). Then they will get an ice pack for the chest or back of the neck (to cool the blood going to the donor's head). A glass of juice is usually brought to the donor as well (to increase fluid volume). If necessary, saline is administered immediately rather than at the end of the collection process. It is regrrettable that MD had such a bad experience attempting to donor plasma, but the process described above is more like The Simpsons episode where Bart donates than an objective account of what actually happened.

And if no one in training is ever allowed to stick a vein, how will we collect blood or start IVs when all the currently living phlebotomists die off?

Ragingbear 11 years, 10 months ago

What is idiotic, and bigoted is some of the rules that they STILL have in place.

The homosexual activity question shows signs of bigotry, and ignorance. The question goes back to any male-homosexual contact since 1977. Well, AIDS is not a homosexual disease at all, and was a rule instituted when people, in their ignorance and bigotry, was convinced that it was purely homosexual.

If you got exposed in 77, you would either have full blown AIDS, or be dead. Even if you were not by some wierd freak of nature (In which case I am sure some health scientist would like to talk with you.) the testing and screening processes would still screen your blood out.

AIDS is transferred through other means as well. Regular intercourse, sharing needles (Although you are more likely to get hepatitis through that method, but AIDS is definitely a risk there.) Blood transfusions before screening, or in countries without proper blood screening measures, and certain hemophilia medications. Although your chances of getting it through that method are negligible now. In fact, it always was due to the environment needed to process the clotting agents.

Limit it to a year, but for any type of sexual contact of any "High Risk" nature. The screenings will ensure that there are none exposed. Not to mention that blood is refrigerated during storage. The HIV virus does not easily survive such environment (but it can).

The entire screening process needs to be improved. Because guess what? People lie when donating blood, and ESPECIALLY when donating plasma. I know for a fact that at least 40% of the homeless population in Lawrence donates plasma at least weekly for drugs, alchohol, and other spending monies. They just lie, and use some simple methods for misleading them.

I feel that lying can be more dangerous than telling the truth. Put those in the mid-risk category in an Extra Screening file.

As for the question that will no doubt be asked me. "Would I feel secure if somebody that was homosexual had their blood injected into me to save my life." The answer is YES.

jonas 11 years, 10 months ago

Vlah. Kidz zhould give blood earlier. Vlah.

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