Egenis seminar with Prof Julie Kent: 'Blood relations: Gender, maternity and blood safety'
SpeakersProfessor Julie Kent (University of the West of England)
Egenis,Byrne House,University of Exeter,St Germans Road,Exeter, EX4 4PJ
Room no: GF7
Time: 3:30 - 5:00pm
In 2003 the UK National Blood Service introduced a policy of 'male donor preference' which meant that from that time the plasma of women was to be discarded following blood collection. The policy was based on the view that data relating to the incidence of Transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) was linked to transfusion with plasma from women. This potentially fatal 'syndrome' was only characterised and named over the past 20years and definitions of it have been the subject of international debate and discussion. Under the cloak of changes where UK donors were implicated as at risk of transmitting vCJD, and therefore their plasma had limited exchange value, the specific gendering of policy relating to plasma processing was effectively obscured. Unlike the highly politicised discrimination against men who have sex with men preventing them from being blood donors, this policy exclusion of women donors was both invisible and we suggest, more invidious. While appearing to treat female donors as equal to male donors, exclusion criteria operated after donation at the stage of processing blood thus perpetuating myths of universality even though only certain 'extractions' from women are retained for use in transfusion.
This paper examines ways in which gender has significance for understanding blood relations, and how the blood economy is gendered. While it has already been recognised that the wider bioeconomy is gendered through practices which appropriate women’s reproductive tissues, for example, oocytes, fetal tissue, embryos and cord blood used as sources of stem cells in our study of relations between blood donors and recipients we explore how gendered bodies are produced through the discursive and material practices within blood services. We examine both how donation policies and the manufacturing and use of blood derivatives produces gendered blood relations.