In the days after a deadly attack an Orlando, Fla. LGBTQI nightclub, family members, friends, and members of the community formed huge lines, stretching around the block to give blood. As local blood banks reached capacity from the enormous outpouring of support, they continued to call for more donations throughout the week. Yet when gay and bisexual men and some transgender women attempted to make donations, the banks turned them away, citing regulations from the 1980s.

Current FDA regulations prohibit anyone who has engaged in male-to-male (MSM) intercourse within the previous year from donating blood. The previous policy mandated that anyone who had engaged in MSM since 1977 could not donate. “What failed was that the blood banks haven’t updated their criteria, so they didn’t put in changes.” Medical ethicist Art Caplan said in an interview with Boston Public Radio Wednesday. “That’s what seems to me to have gotten in the way of people trying to donate to help out in the Orlando situation. The blood bank wasn’t up to date... they hadn’t changed the questions, so they were kicking out people under the old policy.”

Caplan, who chaired the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety for the United States from 1998—2001, helped to establish the new revised recommendations, which he described as “conservative” considering that scientific tests can detect HIV in blood after only 3 months since at-risk sexual behavior. “[The previous policy] made no sense,” Caplan said. “Scientifically, we could screen blood for HIV virus, and unless you had sex with an at-risk person within the past three months, everything else would get tested and you could toss out your donation if you had a problem.”

Caplan’s ideal policy for blood donation would not specifically exclude gay or bisexual men, but instead apply to anyone engaging in behavior that might put someone at risk for HIV, including male-to-male sex, unprotected sex, unsafe sex, or visiting with prostitutes. That test would apply to a three-month period, which would still allow time safe testing of the blood. “I think the year time period is conservative for reasons that I think have more to do with anxiety than science,” Caplan said.

According to Caplan, it is “inexcusable” for blood banks to use outdated policies, because “everybody wants more blood.”

“Whether it’s July 4th weekend when donations go down, or you get a train crash or something happens with a gigantic motor vehicle accident, or you need rare blood types… you want to be ready to get every eligible blood donor at all times,” Caplan said. “We’re not getting enough blood donation as it is, forget about the mass shootings, just generally. This is everybody’s business, and the fact that the blood banks haven’t immediately updated so as to get more blood, boy, that really ticks me off.”

Medical Ethicist Art Caplan is Head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center ad the co-host of theEveryday Ethics podcast. To hear more of his interview with BPR, click on the audio link above.