To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
The Harvard community might be amused by the following. I appeared yesterday (12/4?69) at Memorial Hall to attempt to donate blood. After the initial formalities, I was asked a number of questions about my medical history, including whether I had ever taken any drugs. I naively answered yes-in connection with illnesses. The nurse said, no, she meant marijuana or L. S. D. Well, I said, of course I've smoked occasionally-but not very often. The last time? About two weeks ago. She disappeared behind a curtain and returned to say that on doctor's orders. I was permanently "deferred."
I questioned the rationality of this policy and, in reply, was asked whether I would want my mother, near death in a hospital, to be given a marijuana smoker's blood. I asked to see the doctor and was referred instead to the head nurse, who said the doctor was busy at her lunch.
I have since then discussed the matter with Dr. Kliman, who is something like "Director of Medical Programs" at the Mass. Red Cross. He explained that a good deal of discretion is left to the individual nurse, that there is no flat policy of refusing everyone who claims to have smoked, but that the nurse is instructed to be on the lookout for habitual drug types and, particularly, for anyone who might have used heroin, which, he pointed out, may be associated with hepatitis, which can be transmitted in the blood. He said that marijuana, like nicotine, did leave a residue in the blood for long periods of time and that the residue had unknown effects.
Under questioning he acknowledged that the known negative effects of alcohol were greater than the known effects of marijuana. I have so far been unable to check his assertion about a long-lasting residue. I do not feel it is appropriate for me to comment here on whether I look like a heroin user, but I will point out that the method currently employed by the Mass. Red Cross to screen heroin users is not fool-proof: the potential donor need only lie.