Triumph in Canada

Remember that silly blood type nonsense from the Canadian Blood Services? It’s gone, replaced with a much simpler page that states that your blood type will be determined when you give blood.

A few people have received email from CBS admitting that they’ve removed the nonsense.

Dr. Sher has asked me to respond to your recent e-mail regarding our What’s Your Type? new donor recruitment program. I understand that you have also sent an e-mail communicating your concerns to and that others from our organization have provided you with specific details in response. I can confirm that the content you object to has been removed from our web site. The marketing materials for this program are being revised.

Thanks again for sharing your views with us.

Ian Mumford
Chief Operating Officer
Canadian Blood Services

Good for them. Science FTW!

(Also on Sb)


  1. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    But I wanted to know what my blood horrorscope [sic] would tell me. Now I’ll never win the lottery because Canadian Blood Services won’t tell me my lucky blood numbers. :-(

  2. JohnnieCanuck says

    Interesting. I would have bet against a bureaucracy being able to admit error.

    CBS might have a very different corporate culture, because of their beginnings. It was the blood contamination scandal that brought down their predecessor, the Red Cross. The possibility of Hepatitis and HIV transmission through the blood supply was becoming more and more likely over the years, yet the Red Cross took no action.

    Perhaps the people at the CBS actually did learn from the experience of history.

    Good for them.

  3. TeeDotToronto says

    A few years ago, I wrote to Canada Blood Services when I first learned about the blood type nonsense on their website. I complained that it was all a bunch of hooey and they responded with a B.S. email that it was all in fun and then they thanked me for my concern. It was annoying that they didn’t remove it until recently. I’ll have to go and dig up their email and post it.

  4. Brian says

    @#7: That’s what happens when those of us who don’t have a frothing horde at their fingertips try to lodge a complaint.

  5. says

    Huzzah! Glad to see there’s someone out there who’s not afraid to eat their words and change when they see they’ve done something silly.

  6. Snowshoe the Canuck says

    Good news. I just finished booking my appointment to donate blood on Monday. Now I won’t have to mention that item to the person with the needle.

  7. Waydude says

    FTW is and has always meant Fuck the World, as in “Another parking ticket! FTW!”

    “inflammable means flammable? FTW!”

    “Where’re the condoms?! The condoms?!! FTW!!!”

    add your own.

  8. Hexahelicene says

    I also explained the problem to two volunteers at our Farmers Market. They seemed broadsided by the issue and promised to pass on my concern. LOL

  9. M Groesbeck says

    That’s the biggest problem with the blood-donation system in Canada?

    I’m jealous. Here in the U.S., we still have a problem with the blood-donor screening process being based on who it’s politically convenient to exclude (gay and bisexual men, whether or not we’ve ever had unprotected sex) rather than who’s more likely to be a risk factor (gay, bisexuals, and heterosexuals who have had unprotected sex).

  10. says

    Wow. It must have scared them to get several communications on the same subject within a short time.

    Now they’re muttering in their beards about how they’re just trying to find some way to interest people in blood typing.

    Tee Dot, I’d be interested in that.

  11. Quidam says


    I wrote to them last week, pointing out that the promotion of pseudoscience based on out of date and inaccurate data was not consistent with their stated values and destroyed trust in the service:

    Canadian Blood Services Values

    Canadian Blood Services is committed to delivering quality blood services to Canadians through a national not-for-profit corporation that:

    responds quickly to medical, technical, scientific and management advances and innovations

    I like to think it had something to do with their change, although their response was an inadequate form letter

    Thank you for your feedback regarding our What’s Your Type? program. We appreciate your taking the time to share your opinion with us.

    We do make reference to selected aspects of ketsueki-gata within the What’s Your Type program and our intention is for this to be a light-hearted way to involve potential new donors in the typing process.

    However, we view it as only a minor part of the process. Once the initial contact with a potential new donor is made, we use the What’s Your Type program to discuss the science of blood typing. This includes explaining in detail the ABO categories of blood types as well as the use of anti-serum during the typing process. Once the participant’s blood type has been determine, we explain the importance of knowing one’s type, as well as the number of people within the Canadian population that have that same type.

    The conversation then moves to the idea of donating blood and the reasons why it is an important thing to do. While the typing is done in a mobile environment and not a lab, we find this part of the process is actually a valuable window into the science behind blood and a demonstration that most participants find compelling and informative.

    We have found the program to be a successful recruiting tool, particularly with young people. They are often nervous about the typing, and the reference to a potential link between personality and blood type offers them an avenue to share their experience with others in a way that, for many, relieves the tension of the process. All participants, however, are made aware that the link between blood type and personality is not, in any way, scientific.

    We are working on some updates to the What’s Your Type program this year with more focus on science based facts while still keeping the program fun for potential blood donors in Canada.

    Thank you again for contacting us.

  12. 24fps says

    I got the same form letter after my email last week! I replied to it, but I’d also made a phone call and talked to one of their front line phone staffers. She really didn’t seem to know what to say once we’d exhausted the “all in fun” part of the conversation. She took my name and number and to their credit they did phone me back and leave a message and local number to call them. I haven’t gotten to it yet, but I’ll be sure to thank them for doing the right thing.

    Meanwhile, we still have to convince them to stop discriminating against potential donors who happen to be gay… Larger and longer battle, that one.

  13. quidam says

    There are remnants of the nonsense still on the site$file/E_WYT.pdf

    Type A people are most likely to be:
    police officers
    bus drivers
    gossip columnists

    Type AB people are most likely to become:
    health care professionals
    company managers
    team leaders
    foreign service workers
    fortune tellers/witches
    pantomime artists

    9% of Canadians have type B blood
    Type B people are most likely to become:
    talk show hosts
    military leaders

    Type O people are most likely to become:
    baseball players
    romance writers

    Now you can really claim “It’s in my blood!”
    and it won’t be an excuse!

  14. Nentuaby says

    I hope it’s just me,but that sounds an awful lot like the stock “back down from any controversy” reflex coming down on the side of science more or less by coincidence. I can easily see that exact letter going out to, say, somebody who objected that they published an ad showing a gay couple holding hands or something. There’s nothing actually about factual inaccuracy there, just “the content you object to” in “sharing your views with is.”

  15. Randall says

    M Groesbeck:

    Canadian men who have had sex with other men, even once, since an arbitrary date I am too lazy to look up right now, are banned from giving blood. Ever.

    So, no. That wasn’t our biggest problem.

  16. quidam says

    People who spent more than 3 months in the UK after 1980 are banned from giving blood too. That includes me.

    It’s just as silly as the prohibition on gay men, but I don’t think it’s based on anglophobia, any more than the prohibition on gay men is homophobia

  17. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    SKWEE! That’s kind of awesome. I didn’t think CBS would budge. They still have heinous and bigoted policies. It may be a win on some level, but they still don’t want my gay-tainted blood.

  18. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    It’s not just a prohibition on gay men, quidam. It’s a prohibition on anyone who has had sex with a man who has had sex with a man since 1977. It’s nonsense and at this point it’s unjustifiable. If CBS were serious about keeping their donated blood pathogen free, they would have better screening practices instead of archaic and generalised prohibitions that are virtually unenforceable anyhow.

  19. JohnnieCanuck says

    Hmmph. The Red Cross took away my donor card permanently when I told them not to worry about my fainting, as it had happened before. Never did figure out if that was policy or medically sound or just one nurse’s opinion that “my body was trying to tell me something”.

  20. chigau (0_0) says

    What does “had sex” mean?
    holding hands?
    mutual masturbation?
    the dread™ penis-into-something-not-a-vagina?
    Why not just take the blood and test it?

  21. kraut says

    Reading about the topic the first time I was conviced that the ad was tongue in cheek, and had no problem with it.
    But I guess it is ok to tell all others that they have no right not to be offended, but when some rather obvious writing ridiculing pseudoscience is published that by the hordes here is misunderstood as advocating pseudoscience said hordes lash out in being mightily offended.

    I think the term stuffed shirts describe the hordes here and a certain usually likeable professor quite well.

  22. davem says

    People who spent more than 3 months in the UK after 1980 are banned from giving blood too. That includes me.

    It’s just as well that the UK doesn’t apply that rule, then, otherwise we’d be in a spot of bother… I seem to recall that the only trouble we’ve had here recently was a dodgy batch of US-sourced blood.

  23. OurSally says

    As an ex-Brit I am not allowed to give blood in Germany. The theory is that all Brits have mad cow disease, and that everyone else doesn’t. That way they save the cost of testing.

    I presume they have used up all the units of blood I donated in the 20 years before I was banned…

    Anyway, now I keep my blood to myself. I expect I could donate in the UK if I felt I needed to.

  24. speedweasel says

    @kraut (#30)

    Your prose is dreadful. I spent almost 60 seconds trying to work out what your point was.

    Oh, and your concern is noted.

  25. greensage says

    Ok, the campaign didn’t try the factual approach. They were tring to be cute and interesting to attract people to their good cause. For any kind of marketing today, this shouldn’t be surprising. I get that you wrote a righteous letter and they backed down. There’re a lot of these letters being written these days (many in religious wroth) so the outcome probably wasn’t all that surprising to you. But a triumph? Really? Please.

  26. Anubis Bloodsin III says

    @ 34

    “The theory is that all Brits have mad cow disease”

    Seems a very eminently sensible theory!

    It would explain an awful lot ;-)

    Like why my geriatric neighbor waxes long and lyrical in ‘*Frisian’ on the German occupation of Holland and insists on calling me ‘Tommy’ with a toothless smile and a pat on my back?

    Seems to be the Cloggy equivalent of the French….’Ros Bief’

    But I am unaware of any Cows called ‘Tommy’…probably my naivety!

    ‘*Frisian’ …..A Dutch regional dialect…do not understand a single word…mind you that goes for 80% of the other Dutch residents cos they suffer the same problem.

  27. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    As an ex-Brit I am not allowed to give blood in Germany. The theory is that all Brits have mad cow disease, and that everyone else doesn’t.

    You’re not allowed to give blood in the US if you’ve spent three months or more in the UK since 1980. Apparently spending only two months and 29 days renders you immune to mad cow disease.

  28. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    Greensage, I agree with you that it’s not a triumph, exactly. That’s exaggeration. As for the rest of your comment, your concern is noted. By the way, it may help you to actually learn something about the position of those of us who do have a problem with superstition in marketing (hint: we don’t think marketing is a good excuse to employ superstition).

  29. Audley Z. Darkheart OM (OS), purveyor of candy and lies says

    Type O people are most likely to become:

    romance writers

    God damn it! I knew I missed my calling!

  30. quidam says

    But I guess it is ok to tell all others that they have no right not to be offended, but when some rather obvious writing ridiculing pseudoscience is published that by the hordes here is misunderstood as advocating pseudoscience said hordes lash out in being mightily offended.

    Are you claiming the CBS was actually ridiculing the pseudoscience of ketsueki-gata and that we were too obtuse to realize that?

    I found nothing on the CBS website nor in their response that suggested that the CBS was in any way critical of ketsueki-gata, or that their incorrect evolutionary history of blood types was not intended to be taken seriously.

    It’s not an issue of being offended, rather one of trust

    The issue of trust is important with the Canadian Blood Services, given the history of incompetence and misconduct in the Red Cross that led to the formation of the CBS in the first place (Google ‘Canada tainted blood scandal’)

    Promoting pseudoscience and facts that are plain wrong and have been known to be wrong for two decades, destroys trust. If the science presented on their website is wrong, how can we trust the science in their laboratories?

    Are they preserving blood by placing it under amethyst crystal pyramids? Am I going to get a homeopathic blood transfusion? Is my profession going to be used to determine my blood type?

  31. madtom1999 says

    As an apparently toxic Brit I was wondering if anyone could dig out the ‘reasoning’ behind the 3 months since 1980 exclusion. Perhaps the US carried out some experiment on us that we should really know about.
    It sounds like it could be BSE but it would be nice to know so we can all have a laugh about it.

  32. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    CBS also has the same policy regarding anyone who has been in the UK for 3 months since 1980.

    Indignation at this policy should pale in comparison to their policy on people who have had sex with men who have had sex with men.

  33. Synfandel says

    I think PZ is seriously overreacting to this one. It was a light-hearted marketing campaign. It said right on the main page that it was for entertainment purposes only. It was never intended to be treated as ‘scientific’. PZ, you need to grow a sense of humour.

  34. Beana says

    I couldn’t be bothered getting behind this one. We have more pressing things to worry about in Canada this week. Like how are we going to survive the next four years with a right-wing government led by an evangelical christian who may or may not believe that global warming is real (let’s not even discuss evolution), after our champion of sanity and social and environmental responsibility has died. It’s a little weightier than CBS and their pseudoscience and stupid policies.

  35. Mijan says

    I e-mailed them myself. I figured a lot of people would, but as someone who used to regularly volunteer at blood drives, and who was a regular donor, seeing such ridiculous woo-woo being promoted on a blood donor website made me want to gag, so I had to chime in.

    Glad to see they removed that ridiculous tripe.

  36. says

    Outstanding! Now maybe they can work on reviewing their absurd blood donation policies. Constantly crying out for people to donate and unilaterally ignoring people willing to give because of sexual orientation. Insanity.

  37. M Groesbeck says

    @ Randall —

    Same policy as in the U.S., then. I don’t quite remember who was behind keeping that criterion, but it seems they’re international.

  38. steve oberski says

    Randall says:

    Canadian men who have had sex with other men, even once, since an arbitrary date I am too lazy to look up right now, are banned from giving blood. Ever.

    As a Canadian blood donor, I affectionately refer to that part of the donor questionnaire as the “sex, drugs and rock’n roll” test.

  39. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    Yawn. Complainers, just because there are bigger things, doesn’t mean smaller things should be put off. There are a lot of people out there. How about, instead of complaining here, on an American’s blog with an international readership and commentariat, go do something about that bigger issue?

    Frankly, a few words an a couple hundred letters weren’t that hard to write. It was easy to get CBS to capitulate. It took almost no effort and almost no time. How about a letter writing campaign to Harper asking him to clarify his stances on global warming and evolution? Shouldn’t be too hard. Or is it easier to complain?

  40. MichelleZB says

    I disagree that this was a small issue.

    The Japanese personality-type crap could be considered harmless nonsense. BUT they were also giving diet advice from “Eat Right for Your Blood Type,” which is considerably more dangerous.

    No reputable medical organization has any business spreading pseudoscience–but ESPECIALLY not if it’s unproven diet advice from some naturopath.

  41. says

    Re: the ban on blood donation based on living in the UK >3 mos since 1980 – apparently this one has changed and it is now a six year span, rather than all of 1980 onward. I thought I was ineligible, but nope. Don’t ask me which six years.

    I do think it quite insane that living in Africa, no big deal. Lots of (hetero)sex partners, no problemo. Tattooed and pierced, pshaw.

    But you’re a guy who had a one night stand in 1992 with another guy? Ooooh, contamination.

    They are totally off their heads.

  42. says

    Also, I quite enjoyed telling people I couldn’t donate blood due to being a “mad cow.”

    Thomathy: on the upside, letters posted in Canada to the PMs office are free delivery, no need for a stamp. Could be fun.

    Can you say deluge? I knew you could.

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