P.O. Box 982 Evanston, Illinois 60204


Blood Transfusions and The Blood Bank Controversy

‘Dr. James Isbister, in an article dealing with the risks of blood transfusions (Medical Journal of Australia, 1980), reports, "De- spite the screening programmes of donor blood for hepatitis B anti~ gen, there has not been a dramatic reduction in the incidence of post—transfusion hepatitis."

¢Davis—Christopher's Textbook of Surgery (Saunders) states, "Blood

is frequently transfused when minor, clinically insignificant losses have occurred. It has been estimated that 35-50% of all blood transfusions are unnecessary and only about 1% are given as life-

I)r Ikobert saving proceduresU' Mendelsohn °Jerry Kolins, M.D., reports (Journal of the American Medical Asso-

ciation, 1981) "The most common causes of fatal transfusion reac- tions involve clerical identity errors resulting in transfusions of blood to the wrong patient...Studies from the Mayo Clinic show a hemolytic reaction for every 6,232 units transfused and one fatality for every 33,500 units transfused. These deaths do not include fatalities secondary to post—transfusion hepatitis."

The dangers of blood transfusions have been known for decades, as exemplified by

the statement in the 1960 edition of Complications in Surgery and Their Management edited by Drs. Curtis Artz and James Hardy! "The computed annual death rate from blood transfusions exceeds that reported for many common surgical illnesses such as rectal cancer, appendicitis, diverticulitis, duodenal ulcer, cholecystitis or intes- tinal obstruction."

These representative gleanings from scientific publications show what doctors say to each other about blood transfusions. The purpose of this issue of my News- letter is to reveal these private matters to you in the hope that you will think twice when faced with a decision to receive——and to give-—blood.

I recently was hospitalized with hepatitis for 10 days. My doctor diag- nosed it as Type B, the kind you get from a blood transfusion. But I have never had a blood transfusion. In fact, except for this illness, I haven't been inside a hospital during the past eight years. I did have a blood test taken four months before I became ill with hepatitis, and that is the only needle that entered my body during the past year.

My doctor says he doesn't know how I contracted hepatitis. Do you have any information that might help me track down the cause?——L.M.

I presume you wrote me because of your concern over that blood test, and although blood tests are certainly necessary, your concern is not totally .without justification. After all, your bout with this disease came well Hbm/hqpaflnk within the incubation period for Type B hepatitis (six weeks to six isymead months). The disease may be spread not only by blood transfusions but