January was declared National Blood Donor Month in 1970 due to the difficulty of recruiting donors specifically during this month. Perhaps it’s the increase of cold and flu symptoms, inclement weather, or the winter blues after the holiday season or just the fact that there are 31 days, but whatever the case may be, even the most dedicated blood donors tend to refrain from giving blood during the winter months. Approximately 39,000 units of blood are required each day in hospitals and emergency treatment facilities for patients with cancer and other diseases, organ transplant recipients, and to help save accident victims. Due to this high demand, blood donation centers are urging healthy donors to donate blood throughout the winter.
Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. Considering blood cannot be artificially made, hospitals rely on the kindness of eligible donors to meet this demand and giving just one pint of blood can be split into platelets, plasma, and red blood cells to save up to three lives. Unfortunately, less than 10% of the eligible population donates blood annually. Though there are restrictions affecting one’s eligibility to donate, they are limited and the FDA recently lifted its lifetime ban on accepting donations from homosexual and bisexual men. If one does fall under a category disqualifying them from giving blood, such as having been recently tattooed or out of the country, they may be pleased to learn other types of donations are still possible, such as biospecimen donation for important research.
We conducted a study with Lab42 to gain more insight into today’s philanthropic patient. While studying patient attitudes toward biospecimen donation is no new feat, this study sample was uniquely representative of the US population and current. Through this study we confirmed that more often than not, patients really do want to help. As far as willingness to donate, 83% of respondents would allow use of their remnant specimens and 66% were willing to donate an extra tube of blood. In addition, 67% of the overall population would agree to be contacted about future donation. The number one reason participants gave for their willingness was that others may benefit from the research. Given the existing criteria disqualifying some patients from donating blood and the findings from our study, it is quite plausible that disqualified patients may be as likely, if not more likely, to consider donating their remnant specimens to help advance research.
To learn more about blood donation centers or to make an appointment to donate, please visit the following links. If you are interested in donating biospecimens into research, ask your doctor if your healthcare facility offers such a program.