Inmates involved in the Lifeline rehab scheme were involved in some of Bermuda’s most notorious crimes. *Photo by Simon Jones
Inmates involved in the Lifeline rehab scheme were involved in some of Bermuda’s most notorious crimes. *Photo by Simon Jones

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15: A group of Westgate prisoners has launched a campaign to allow serving inmates to donate blood.

Hospital policy currently prevents them from doing so, but a support group called Lifeline, run by men serving life sentences, hopes to overturn the ban. The group’s members say they want do good for the community.

Kenneth Burgess, who was jailed for life for the murder of the Cooper twins in 2005, said Lifeline had tried to contact health chiefs as well as Health Minister Zane De Silva to press their case.

He added: “We are trying to make positive strides in a number of areas including charitable work and making Westgate more environmentally friendly.

“But one of the initiatives we are currently working on is allowing serving prisoners to donate blood. Hospital policy states that people in incarceration cannot donate blood.

“But we would like to see that policy changed so that we can help to give back life to the community. All blood has to go through a screening process so there would be no danger of diseases or illnesses being passed to the public.

“There is a resource in Westgate and it could save lives. We would like to set up, leading from this group, donations of blood from Westgate.

“These are often matters of life and death and changing a policy could save another person’s life.”

Burgess’s co-accused, Dennis Robinson, who is also serving a life sentence for the Cooper twins’ murder, heads up the Lifeline support group.

He told the Sun: “We recognized a community need for blood donation. So we began the difficult task of first educating and then organizing how it could work. Whilst Lifeline understands the concerns that underlie the policy, we believe strongly that there are sufficient checks to ensure that donors and the blood they donate are free of any infections or contaminants that might place recipients at risk.”

A spokesperson for the Bermuda Hospital Board confirmed that all blood products are tested prior to transfusion.

The spokesperson added: “BHB confirms its Blood Donor Centre cannot accept blood donations from inmates, as they are considered a high risk group and are, therefore, not eligible to donate.

“Other high risk groups include people who have visited or lived in certain countries, who engage in high risk behaviours such as drug use and those who have had a tattoo in the last 12 months.

“BHB’s first priority is the safety and welfare of our patients and for this reason, we adhere to international standards regarding the eligibility of blood donors in order to provide as safe a supply of blood as possible.

“Blood donation eligibility guidelines followed by BHB comply with the American Association of Blood Banks.

“These guidelines are issued and followed to ensure the safety of recipients and are required by our accrediting bodies, which include Joint Commission International (JCI) and Canada Accreditation.

“Violating these standards by receiving blood donations from high risk groups would result in the loss of our accreditation, and more importantly, would jeopardize the safety of patients receiving blood.”