Blood Confusion


Yechiel saw the posters asking people to donate blood. He
arrived at the local blood donation station, where a registered male nurse
received him. Yechiel lay down on the bed and the nurse inserted the needle
into his arm. When the bag was full, Yechiel descended from the bed – and
promptly fainted! When he woke up, he found that he had a huge gash on his
forehead. What’s more, the nurse was mopping up the blood he had donated. The
nurse had carelessly allowed the bag to tear. Yechiel wishes to know whether
he can claim his medical expenses from the nurse (or his employers), since he
claims that his negligence in failing to examine him before taking blood
caused him to faint and come to injury? He would also like to know if he is
still entitled to the blood insurance given to donors even though the blood
ran to waste.


It is well known that a blood donor must rest, eat and
drink after donating blood. If he gets up immediately after the blood
donation is completed, he is likely to faint. Should he act in this
irresponsible manner, he only has himself to blame if he suffers injury as a
result. In the unlikely event that the donor was unaware of the need to rest
after blood had been taken, whoever should have informed him, but failed to
do so, can not be made to pay for the resultant damage. Although he is guilty
of failing to provide information which could have enabled another person to
save himself from harm (hashovas gufo), compensation can not be
claimed from him in Beis Din (pottur b’dinei odom). Thus, if Yechiel
got up straight after giving blood, he has no claim on the nurse.

What if Yechiel did rest and drink after giving blood, but
nevertheless fainted when he got up because of low blood pressure? The nurse
was definitely negligent in failing to take Yechiel’s blood pressure before
drawing blood. In that case, his taking blood from Yechiel is considered
causing him injury. For such action, the Torah makes him liable to pay
five different types of compensation – see Tractate Bovo Kamo (83b).
The fact that the nurse had no intention of causing injury does not exempt
him from paying damages. He is still liable for the results of his
negligence. His lack of intent to cause injury would only exempt him from
paying compensation for embarrassment (boshess) – see Tractate Bovo
Kamo (26b).
However, nowadays Beis Din only have authority to collect
payment of medical expenses (ripuy) and temporary loss of earnings
Shulchan Oruch, Choshen Mishpot 1:2 and
Sema, Note 12. (The
Remo ad loco writes that even these forms of
compensation are not collected nowadays, but just a fitting sum to placate
the victim—see Ibid. Paragraph 5.) In our case, the maximum sum that Yechiel
could claim is the cost of his medical expenses.

As regards his blood insurance rights, the fact that the
blood bank will not benefit from his spilt blood donation does not detract
from his rights as a donor. He will still be entitled to free blood
transfusions for him and his family for the next year (the rights conferred
on blood donors in Israel). The moment his blood entered the bag, the blood
bank "acquired" his blood. They then became obligated to make "payment", in
the form of blood insurance (see Mishptei Hatorah, Bovo Kamo
No.124). When their worker negligently allowed the blood to run to waste by
tearing the bag, this was their blood being spilled! If they wish to
penalize their worker for his incompetence, they may do so, but this has no
bearing on Yechiel’s rights. The transaction has already been completed.