People who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis cannot give blood. This is a blanket ban that applies to 'chronic conditions of unknown aetiology and includes a range of other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
People with MS also cannot donate bone marrow. To join the NHS Blood and Transplant British Bone Marrow Registry you have to be a registered blood donor. Although being a blood donor is not a requirement when registering with the Anthony Nolan Trust or Delete Blood Cancer UK – charities that find bone marrow donors for people with leukaemia and blood disorders - MS is also one of the excluded conditions on these registers.
People with MS can be considered as organ donors.
The reasoning behind this distinction is based on the fact that the cause of MS is currently unknown. Until there is evidence to prove otherwise, it is considered sensible to avoid donations from people with MS when there may be something in the blood that is a contributing factor to developing the condition.
As an organ transplant requires the consent of the recipient, they can be informed of any potential risks before they make their decision whether to accept an organ or not. The availability of organs is also limited and so any potential risks are weighed against the consequences of not proceeding with the operation.
In comparison, it is not possible to identify a donor at the point when the blood is being used, so any potential risks have to be screened out at the point of donation.
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Although people with multiple sclerosis can't give blood or donate bone marrow, the donation of organs is allowed. Find out more about organ donations in this A-Z entry.
Last updated: November 2017
Last reviewed: April 2016
This page will be reviewed within three years