Are there ethical differences between stopping and not starting blood safety measures?

K. Kramer*, M.F. Verweij, H.L. Zaaijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Objectives: Concern with the costs of blood safety is growing, which raises the question whether safety measures that reduce risk only marginally should be discontinued. Withdrawing such safety measures would allow reallocating resources to more efficient health care interventions, but it might raise moral objections. Materials and Methods: This study evaluates two ethical arguments why discontinuing blood safety measures would be more objectionable than not implementing them. The first argument is that whereas withdrawing protective measures causes harm to patients, not starting protective measures 'merely' omits to prevent harm. The second argument is that patients who benefit from protective measures are historically entitled to the continuation of those protective measures. Results: Both arguments are unconvincing. There is only a weak causal connection between removing blood safety measures and harms that transfusion recipients suffer. Moreover, patients are not entitled to the continuation of protective measures that prove very inefficient, unless applying these protective measures rectifies past injustice towards them. Conclusion: Unless stronger ethical objections can be found, blood system operators and regulators should be more willing to withdraw inefficient safety measures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-424
JournalVox Sanguinis
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Donor blood safety
  • Ethics
  • Transfusion-transmissible infections
  • Withdrawing vs. withholding


Dive into the research topics of 'Are there ethical differences between stopping and not starting blood safety measures?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this