Blood Collection Organizations Should Freeze Reserves, Former American Red Cross Head Says
Blood donations should be frozen whenever supply exceeds demand in order to create a "steady, ready and separate blood source" for use during a national catastrophe, Bernadine Healy, former president of the American Red Cross, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece (Washington Post, 3/29). The Red Cross was criticized after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon when the organization had to discard 49,000 units of donated blood, which only lasts 42 days (American Health Line, 2/1). Healy writes that "the lesson" of the Sept. 11 attacks is "not that we collected too much blood ... but that we were morbidly 'lucky' that more blood was not needed." She contends that if 30,000 units of blood were needed for "victims of mass attacks," the country's blood supply would fail. Healy advocates creating a blood supply of "screened, tested and frozen O-type blood" that could be stored in nationwide depots and monitored by HHS. Frozen blood lasts for 10 years and can be ready to use in three hours but costs about twice as much as liquid blood, Healy says. She acknowledges that such inventory plans are opposed by the blood supply industry, which is "set in its ways, has more local than national focus and struggles to fulfill its current responsibilities." Opponents also see frozen blood as "complex and costly," she writes. But Healy concludes, "A strategic blood reserve available on a moment's notice -- along with a cache of medical personnel ready to administer it -- is imperative" (Washington Post, 3/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.