Laws (rules and regulations) are the binding agent of every community. This is because it does not establish/specify who or which institution does what but regulates the relationship between institutions and individuals within such a community. Growing up, we were all reprimanded for the wrongs that we did. Some for the wrongs we knew of and some for the wrongs we had no idea of. This felt so embarrassing to some of us, especially when we were reprimanded for wrongs which were done negligently. Some of these were wrong in themselves, and some were wrong because they were prohibited. However, one may see this categorization, and our challenge was with wrongs which we knew nothing of until we were reprimanded for them. A little reading on legal theory made me understand that, as a principle, a person is not culpable of a crime unless his mind is also guilty.
Similarly, a person is not guilty of a crime unless such crime has been clearly defined and the punishment for it is also specified. This is captured under the 1992 Constitution of the Republic under Articles 19(7) and 11. For this reason, whichever act or omission we wish to criminalize, there has to be its enabling instrument for its definition as an offence and punishment specified. This write-up will educate the public on some blood and blood product-related offences and penalties as outlined in the National Blood Service Act, 2020 (Act 1042) [NBS Act].
Not until 2020, somewhere during the last quarter of the year, that the President assented to the National Blood Service Bill to become an Act. As part of the Miscellaneous provisions to the NBS Act, particularly under Section 33, offences and penalties under the Act are outlined. To begin with, we wish to reiterate that it is the National Blood Service of Ghana that is mandated to undertake all blood services and related activities in Ghana. As such, where an individual or a group seeks to collect blood without authorization from the Service, it is regarded as an offence under Section 33(1)(a). Similarly, where a person or an institution produces and manufactures blood or its products without authorization from the Service, they are criminally liable according to subsection 1(b) of 33. Again, where they provide blood transfusion and related services not from or by and authorized by the NBS, such is also an offence pursuant to subsection 1(c) of 33 under the Act. Lastly, on matters relating to data protection, where a person divulges confidential information of a blood donor or any information in relation to the functions of the Service, such a person is also criminally liable pursuant to subsection 1(d) of 33 under the Act.
The punishment for any individual or group of persons and institution which is culpable in these offences mentioned above under Section 33(1) (a)(b)(c) and (d) shall be summarily convicted to pay a fine of not less than 100 penalty units and not more than 150 penalty units; or to a term of imprisonment for a minimum of 6 (six) months and not more than a year (misdemeanour); or both. An exemption is, however, made for the sale of plasma-derived products approved for sale by the Food and Drug Authority. In addition to the above, health professionals are immune from criminal prosecutions for these offences under the following circumstances. Where they collect or provide blood transfusion for a patient at an approved health care provider institution, after reasonable requests have been made, to the Service for the required products (quantity), but the Service cannot provide the required blood or blood product (quantity); or where they require blood or blood product needed as a life-saving measure in their health care provider institution but when all reasonable efforts to obtain the blood or products from the Service have been unsuccessful. From the careful readings of the provision under subsection 3 of 33, it must be noted that these exemptions are allowed on reasonable grounds to save a life and not for any other purposes, as the case may be.
I hope this write-up has sensitized you on the offences and penalties that any individual or institution may suffer when found guilty. After all, “ignorantia juris non-excusat” – ignorance of the law is no excuse.