In Quebec, the collection and supply of blood products are managed by Héma-Québec. The organization’s mission is to efficiently provide adequate quantities of safe, optimal blood components and substitutes, human tissues and cord blood to meet the needs of all Quebecers. Everywhere else in Canada, that role is fulfilled by Canadian Blood Services.
People with type 1 diabetes (T1D) inject insulin several times a day (or use an insulin pump) to make up for their body’s inability to produce insulin, a hormone that is vital for regulating blood sugar levels. Given that they use needles and experience challenges in maintaining adequate blood sugar levels, one can wonder whether people with T1D are eligible to donate blood.
One of the most likely reasons would be the potential risk of transmitting a blood‑borne illness to the recipient—since people with T1D use needles almost daily. However, there are no studies to support the existence of this risk.
Another hypothesis would be the general restriction implemented in the 1980s due to the risk of transmission of mad cow disease (or its human form, called variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease). Up until the early 80s, the most widely used type of insulin was animal insulin (taken from pigs or cattle). Manufacturers stopped producing animal insulin only towards the end of the 1990s. Since then, people with T1D in Canada have been using synthetic human insulin.
Blood donations from people with T1D are accepted only when the person has not experienced any acute health condition (e.g., hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic episode—low or high blood sugar—that required the help of another person) in the three months prior to the blood donation. Once again, however, it isn’t clear why those restrictions are needed.
Ever since the eligibility criteria were loosened everywhere else in Canada, many adults with T1D have been able to donate blood. Now, let’s see whether Héma-Québec will follow suit and let Quebecers with T1D help to save lives! Diabetes Québec is among the organizations that are advocating for this change.
- Canadians living with type 1 diabetes can now save lives, accessed on June 22, 2021, https://www.diabetes.ca/media-room/press-releases/canadians-living-with-type-1-diabetes-can-now-save-lives
- Who can donate?, accessed on June 22, 2021, https://www.hema-quebec.qc.ca/sang/donneur-sang/puis-je-donner/index.en.html