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Who cares about the blood supply? Apparently not the Red Cross.

Credit the NY Times' Stephanie Strom with breaking the story:  "Problems persist with Red Cross Blood services.

Did you know that for 15 years, the American Red Cross has been under a federal court order to improve the way it collects and processes blood?  Me neither.

Problems cited in the many FDA reports include:

  • Improper screening of donors
  • Poor blood-drawing technique
  • Failures to test for syphilis
  • Failures to discard deficient blood

Strom's story has everything, including a whistle-blower who was later fired, incredible financial and database mismanagement, falsified records, and hints of a sadly typical non-profit culture in which most people don't make any money, while the incompetent top execs are grossly overpaid.

Who knows what damage has been done to patients?  After all, the Red Cross controls 43 percent of the nation's blood supply, and much of what goes wrong can be conveniently hidden...

As a former CEO of the Red Cross put it, "Patients who get blood transfusions tend to be pretty sick. If they spike a fever post-transfusion, no one is likely to suspect that the blood caused it."

Of course, that's the "problem" when attempting to judge health care outcomes.  People who are admitted to hospitals are, uh, sick--and sick people sometimes die.  So, how can it be our fault?

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