If the collection and storage of personal data collected by the French Blood Establishment (EFS) in the context of the selection of candidates for blood donation contribute “to guaranteeing transfusion safety”, “it is particularly important that sensitive data (…) are accurate, updated, adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purposes pursued, and that their retention period does not exceed that which is necessary”, insists the ECHR in a press release.
During a first donation attempt in 2004, Laurent Drelon, a Frenchman born in 1970, refused, during the preliminary medical interview, to answer when he was asked if he had ever had sexual intercourse with a man. He was then listed as “homosexual” on his donor file and subsequently systematically excluded from donating blood.
Given the applicant’s refusal to answer, “the data collected, based on mere speculation, was not based on any proven factual basis”, considers the judicial body of the Council of Europe.
In addition, an excessive period of conservation of these data “made possible their repeated use against the applicant”, adds the court.
The decision of the ECHR “is a great victory which, in retrospect, demonstrates the serious discrimination suffered for decades by supposedly homosexual people who sought to donate their blood”, reacted Me Patrice Spinosi, lawyer for the applicant.
Since 1983, it was forbidden for homosexual men to give blood because of the risk of transmitting AIDS. From 2016, this ban was lifted, but subject to the condition in particular of abstinence for one year.
This period was reduced to four months in 2019 and then completely eliminated last March with the absence of any reference to sexual orientation in the questionnaires prior to donation.
Despite this change in the situation, “the condemnation of France highlights that (…) homosexuals have been illegally filed and discriminated against for nearly twenty years by the French government”, considered Me Spinosi.
France is ordered by the ECHR to pay 3,000 euros to Mr. Drelon for “moral damage” and 9,000 euros “for costs and expenses”.
On the other hand, the court of Strasbourg declared inadmissible another request of 2018 concerning more generally the measures of exclusion of the donation taken in 2004 and 2006, judging the grievance late.