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Minister of Health can decide on deferral period from giving blood for males who have sex with other males

On 16th March 2016 the Court of Appeal made a ruling that the Northern Ireland Minister of Health is the correct person to make a decision on the appropriate deferral period from giving blood for males who have sex with other males.

The Minister had decided not to alter the lifetime ban or to bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK which implements a one-year deferral period.  On 11th October 2013, Mr Justice Treacy allowed an application for judicial review against his decision.  He held that the Minister’s decision was irrational and biased and that the Secretary of State was the appropriate decision-maker.  The Minister appealed the findings while the respondent cross-appealed against the trial judge’s failure to deal with his claim that a lifetime deferral was disproportionate.

The Court of appeal held that the Minister is the appropriate person to decide on the deferral period.  Moreover, there was no basis to conclude that his decision was irrational or entrenched in bias.  However, he should have brought the matter to the attention of the Executive Committee and did not do so.

By a 2-1 majority the Court of Appeal concluded that maintaining the lifetime prohibition was not disproportionate or contrary to EU law.

John O’Doherty, Director of the Rainbow Project expressed disappointment at the judgment,

It is disappointing that they failed to recognise that there is no reasonable, rational or medical reason to maintain this lifetime ban.’

Read summary of judgment here and access BBC news article here.

Health, LGBT