On Friday 3 July 2020, the Delhi High Court dismissed a petition that sought directions to the Centre and Delhi government to make it mandatory for the recovered patients of COVID-19 to donate plasma. It should be made mandatory for all patients, whether quarantined at home or a hospital, the plea added.
Citing the reason for such demand, the petitioner alleged that the governments, central as well as Delhi, are not taking effective steps to ensure the availability of plasma for the treatment of COVID-19. The petition, filed by Advocate Piyush Gupta, mentioned that plasma therapy could not only help to treat patients with severe symptoms but can also be used to treat moderately ill patients and prevent their health condition from deteriorating anymore.
Sr. Advocate Rakesh Tikoo appeared for Petitioner-in-person Piyush Gupta with Advocate Kapil Goel. “We have about 60 percent of COVID-19 patients who have recovered. After 14 days of having recovered, these individuals can be potential plasma donors,” said Adv. Tikoo. Generally, patients who opt for home quarantine/isolation never return to hospitals after recovering, due to the social stigma attached to it. Commenting on the voluntary donation concept followed by blood banks, he said, “We must accept today’s ground realities. There is a social stigma attached to COVID-19. Hence, the level of voluntariness that we are looking for will be uncertain,” he added, “By the time the bank gets it, it might be too late.”
Plasma collected from the recovered patients can be used as an immunity booster for those at high risk of getting infected with the novel coronavirus, the petition added. Earlier, the Health Minister of Delhi Satyendra Jain also underwent plasma therapy to recover from COVID-19.
The petition urged the Court to issue directions to the respondents for making it mandatory for all recovered patients to donate plasma, citing that black marketing has been burgeoning during the pandemic, due to unavailability or insufficient availability of plasma to the needy.
To put a stop to this unscrupulous activity, the Central Government may constitute a “Statutory Committee” to look into the matter and monitor the data on all persons who get infected with the virus and to expedite the process of plasma donation by framing relevant rules along with opening “Plasma Banks”.
The matter was heard by a division bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan. The bench observed that people cannot be forced to give the undertaking to donate plasma before being treated for COVID-19. This is a voluntary activity, and treatment for COVID-19 cannot be made conditional, the bench added.
The Court said that a plasma bank is already in place in the capital that was inaugurated by the Delhi government on Thursday 2 July 2020. The Court questioned whether a person can be forced into donating his blood plasma, it being a voluntary activity. However, it was observed that a person can only be encouraged to donate his/her plasma willingly, after recovering from COVID-19.
The honorable Court sought response from the respondents− Central government, Delhi government, National Disaster Management Authority, and various civic bodies− and directed them to treat this Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which also sought framing of guidelines and constitution of a statutory body to regulate smooth availability of plasma, as a representation.