It has been brought to light that anyone wishing to donate blood to the Blood Bank must be able to speak and understand Icelandic, or they will be turned away.
The matter was brought to the Grapevine’s attention by Thomas Dähling, a German national who has been living in Iceland for about one and a half years. As he explained in an e-mail to us, he has a rare blood type – type B rhesus negative – and was looking forward to donating to Iceland’s blood reserves.
The regulations for foreigners wishing to donate blood are such that the foreigner in question must have an Icelandic identity number (kennitala), intend to live in Iceland at least one year, and come from Australia, USA, Europe, Canada or New Zealand. For those from other countries, they must wait at least six months.
Fulfilling all the criteria, Thomas believed the matter resolved. He told the Blood Bank that he was not quite confident in his grasp of Icelandic, and asked if he could bring an interpreter. This request was denied, and he was told in part, “A blood donor should be able to read and understand Icelandic. … If you feel confident enough in communicating in Icelandic you are welcome to come by.” As such, he was denied being able to donate blood, due to his lack of a command of Icelandic.
The Grapevine contacted the Blood Bank to ask more about this rule. Dr. Sveinn Guðmundsson told us, “The regulations we follow in donating blood follow those which are used in other European countries. We do not have special regulations of our own.”
When asked why a command of Icelandic was necessary to donate blood in Iceland, he said, “The person donating blood has to be able to understand questions on a questionnaire that we give to potential donors. As these questions are of a personal nature, it is a question of privacy that there be no one else present for the interview, even if the potential donor permits the translator to be present. We do this both to ensure the security of any potential recipients, and to protect the privacy of a potential donor.”
Dr. Guðmundsson added that if a donor felt they had an adequate command of Icelandic, but might need help with a word or two, staff would be willing to help them out. “But I can think of no country in Europe where a person would be allowed to bring a translator to a blood bank.”
So why, then, are there not questionnaires available in other languages, such as English? “We simply do not have the resources to translate the questionnaire,” Dr. Guðmundsson said.