Often, in the aftermath of tragedy, comes the desperate call for blood. And in the hours after the massacre in Orlando on Sunday morning, thousands of people lined up and waited hours to donate blood- a tangible way to help those in need, other than "thoughts and prayers."

But in this case, tragedy also turned to tragic irony. The attack occurred in a gay night club, a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community to dance, sing and be themselves. And due to the FDA regulations, many in the LGBTQ community are unable to donate blood and help the members of their community in this harrowing time. 

Early in the 1980's, there was a lifetime ban or deferral for any man who had ever had sex with another man. Even once. But in May, the FDA released new recommendations that would allow gay men to donate blood with a big 'if'- if those men had been celibate for a year.  Critics charge these restrictions have no scientific bearing and are discriminatory. Harvard Law Professor Glenn Cohen(@CohenProf) joined Adam on Tuesday night to discuss these restrictions. 

Cohen said, “The state of rationale for the current policy, as it was for the older policy, was to protect the quality of blood in the blood supply the safety of the blood in the blood supply, and the public’s trust.”  The FDA modeled this one year restriction from data collected in Australia that showed that the one year restrictions is did not compromise the safety of the blood supply. Cohen and other professionals find this window of time "far too conservative,” and add that South Africa has a six month restriction. 

While the restrictions are meant to protect the public blood supply, every pint of blood donated is tested (for HIV, Hepatitis, among other things) and quarantined for an extended period of time. “Essentially the estimated risk by the FDA of something slipping through, in this case whether it’s from straight people or gay people, is about one in two million. And indeed, the existing nucleic acid testing we have now can detect in a very short period, seven top ten days after infection, and blood is routinely held for that period of time to make sure we do that test.”

 Cohen cited Italy's system as what his ideal policy would look like. Italy individually assesses each person donating blood. “They’ve got rid of any period of deferral…They test the blood, they have a behavioral questionnaire they group you into a risk group, and then they decide what to do on an individualized basis.”

Cohen’s ideal testing would look a lot like Italy’s with individualized assessments. “If you look statistically at the map of the United States, there are area that have extremely high concentrations of HIV infection. If we went zip code by zip code and said, ‘by virtue of living in this zip code, you -whether you’re straight or gay- you have to be celibate for an entire year.’ You would look at me like I was crazy.” This is why Journal of American Medical Association, Cohen and others have been urging the FDA to go about this on an individual case by case approach. 

With a new FDA commissioner, Cohen says there is hope for changing legislation. But he said, "it may depend on who takes the White House."