Bioethics News

Blood During Ramadan

By Peter Young


The death toll in a series of three explosions at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul has risen to 44, with 238 originally wounded and 94 currently hospitalized as of late last week. The airport reopened the morning after, cordoning off the sections where blasts had occurred, and the city of Istanbul is now in a state of mourning over innocent victims lost. These unfortunate events bring up an opportunity to discuss how differences in belief can influence medical ethics. Turkey, a predominantly Muslim nation, has culturally defined ethical considerations that translate to differences when providing healthcare.


The attacks in Turkey, for example, came in the middle of Ramadan, a month-long Muslim holiday where many fast during daylight hours. The act of fasting, already tough on the body, is not recommended for the young or light-weight. For a variety of reasons, blood banks in countries neighboring Turkey have faced shortages of blood products during the month of Ramadan. One obvious reason is that the act of donating may make a fasting person feel weaker and may force them to break their fast, if they need to eat or drink to replenish themselves. Others have a belief that donating blood somehow invalidates their fast. Fortunately for Turkey, Turks seem to have positive attitudes towards donating blood, although some do not fully understand related issues. In addition to positive attitudes, the Red Crescent, equivalent of the Red Cross, is well organized and was able to coordinate the movement of blood products from regional centers to Istanbul to treat those injured from last Monday’s attacks.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.