Friday, September 8, 2006

Red Cross Fined for Blood Safety Violations

The fact that the FDA has fined the Red Cross is one of the scariest headlines I've read today, and also one of the most surprizing.

The government said Friday it was fining the American Red Cross $4.2 million for violating blood-safety laws. The violations include failing to ask appropriate questions of potential donors and not following test procedures, said the Food and Drug Administration.

I used to give blood religiously every two months from the time I was old enough to do so, until just a few years ago. The only reason I stopped was that the Red Cross instituted new eligibility guidelines for blood donors that precluded my donating because I have spent too moooo-ch, er, much, time in Europe. I begrudgingly did so, since the percentage of blood donors in America is very low (in the low singles, I seem to recall).

Every single time I gave blood, I had to fill out a questionnaire certifying my eligibility, and that was always followed by a personal interview with a nurse who made a point of double-checking the most crucial questions.

Just to give me an out in case some sort of peer pressure had driven me to donate blood that I knew should never be given to anybody else, they gave me a way to silently indicate that. Two visually indistinguishable bar code stickers and a private booth were given to me, and I would affix either the one labeled "use" or the one labeled "don't use" directly on my paperwork. I always thought that this was a bit of overkill, since all the peer pressure I had ever encountered was decidedly against giving blood.

So, in light of those experiences, I'm truly baffled as to how the Red Cross could have been so negligent in so many cases.



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