The blood drive conducted by the Ezer Mizion group in a search for a bone marrow donor for 3-year-old Omri Raziel proved that the public willingly volunteers to help attempts to save lives, but it also proves that the state is shaking off its responsibility for its citizens sick with cancer.
There are some 200 people in Israel who need bone marrow transplants. All have cancer, and a bone marrow transplant could help heal and even save lives. To find them an appropriate donor requires conducting a classification of the tissues of the donors of blood samples, which are stored in a database. Only when there is a match between a patient and a donor is the donor required to go through a special medical procedure to extract the bone marrow, which is placed into the patient to build a mechanism for the production of healthy blood.
Experts say that there is a need for at least half a million blood samples in Israel, but so far the budgets have not been earmarked for creating that storage facility. Blood has been collected in three centers in recent years: The largest of them, which after yesterday's operation holds 227,000 samples, is owned by Ezer Mizion, a non-profit organization. The second, with about 35,000 samples, is at Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Kerem, and the third, with about 1,000 samples, is at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer.
It is difficult to accept the state's argument that it does not have the budget to establish the storage facility and maintain it. The process of collecting and classifying the blood is indeed not cheap, at about $60 a sample, but when a bone marrow match is found the patient's HMO pays thousands of shekels to the storage facility. Moreover, as opposed to the blood bank which needs repeated donations, the tissue classification facility is based on one-time sampling.
Thousands of people stood in line without complaining on Tuesday to give a sample of their blood, and did so because the fate of an ailing child touched their hearts. They deserve praise, but the overexposure of the boy and his family raises a disturbing question: Is that the only legitimate way an Israeli can fulfill his or her basic right to good health? Is the ruthless use of a child's picture in the clamor for ratings a proper alternative to the obligations that should exist between the state and its citizenry?
The argument that the public only responds to a dramatic human tragedy is baseless. Sampling the blood of conscripts, workers committees, or large organizations are all methods that have not been tried, and would certainly work well if accompanied by the right information campaign conducted by the state.
The fact that the Health Ministry hands over many personal details dealing with tissue classifications of hundreds of thousands of people into the hands of a non-state agency is also a troubling issue. There are worrisome ethical, moral, safety and economic issues that arise as a result. In February 2001, MK Amir Peretz proposed establishing a national state facility for storage of classified tissues for the purpose of bone marrow transplants. The Health Ministry opposed the proposal, and in 2004, Peretz proposed an amended law. The Knesset should support the bill, and the government should take responsibility for the health of its citizenry, including those who can't look with mournful eyes into the lens of the camera.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now