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Safe Blood Donation

Making sure that our blood banks are safe
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Donating blood is pretty much the same everywhere I’ve done it. Before getting hooked up to the tube, they do a few superficial health tests and ask a bunch of medical questions. Some of the questions seem a little iffy to me, for example, according to the American Red Cross, if you lived in any one of a list of western European countries in the past 20 years, you’re considered at risk for Creutzfeldt-Jakob (Mad Cow Disease) and are ineligible to donate blood. Whatever. But the last step is one whose importance I perfectly understand. That’s where you’re left alone and asked to put one of two sticker indicating whether or not you think your blood is safe. To keep things anonymous, the stickers are marked only with a bar code. But last time I donated, I had a close look at them and it wasn’t to difficult to tell the difference between them. I imagine that the nurses that do this every day can tell the difference with only a glance. This seems very insecure to me and defeats the whole purpose.

What I suggest is encrypting the safe/unsafe bit together with a timestamp, and placing the result on a sticker with magnetic tape (like what you have on the back of a credit card), instead of a bar code. Now this may seem a bit over the top, but remember that its success hinges on the *perception* of security. And after all, we are dealing here with human life.

imho, Jul 15 2003


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       I'm a little unsure as to how this jeopardizes the safety of the blood supply. Maybe there's some motivation involved that I can't relate to. If I became convinced that my blood was unsafe, why would I hesitate to put the "no" sticker on the bag? If I knew ahead of time, I wouldn't go.   

       Maybe I need to hear your definition of "security". Are you referring to your privacy?   

       At first, I thought you were going to say that it was too easy to pick the incorrect barcode, but that wasn't it. (My blood bank doesn't do the barcode thing any more, at least I don't get to apply it.)
half, Jul 15 2003
  

       But that's the point of the barcode. Who cares if the nurse or doctor can tell at a glance that the pint will be tossed? You're only concerned about your anonymity and it isn't being compromised.   

       If you know you have a blood-borne disease, don't donate. If someone asks you why you don't donate, tell them to fuck off - it's none of their business. What the hell will they know? Maybe you're just squeemish.   

       If you're a pussy and feel pressured into maintaining appearances, donate, but use the "Do Not Use" sticker. You'll know, the doctor might know, the nurse might know, but your blood won't be used and that's the *only* thing that matters. Everybody wins.
phoenix, Jul 15 2003
  

       It's been a while since I had to choose one of those little bar code stickers, but, if I remember correctly, the application of one bar code vs. the other in no way would have impacted the process. I can't remember if it was immediately before or immediately after the donation but I remember the general sense that my privacy would be protected, save possibly for the one person who saw the bar code. It seems to me that trained personnel being able to identify "good" vs. "bad" blood by the bar code isn't necessarily a bad thing.   

       The blood bank (United Blood Services) where I give, gives me a card with a unique donation number on it, same as on the blood bag. If I "get sick" within 24 hours or so, I just call blood services, give them the number and tell them not to use the blood. The person on the phone has no way to know who I am. In this case, it's good to be just a number. At least I'm fairly certain that's the way it works. I've never exercised that option.
half, Jul 15 2003
  

       jutta: Just for the record, most implementations of the random function are effectively just a scrambled time stamp (i.e. the random seed is a function of the internal clock value).
imho, Jul 16 2003
  

       My understanding is that many nurses are simply local volunteers, and the fear is that the blood donor won’t completely trust them with his medical information and so won’t be completely honest. If the donor is a “pussy”, which isn’t unthinkable if his job/community acceptance is at stake, then you must alleviate his fear with the perception that the method is very secure. Calling some one on the phone and giving them your ID number (from which your name can be looked up), may not be perceived as secure.
imho, Jul 16 2003
  

       Igor approaches the glass dome, lifts it off, and takes the jar containing the blood of Hans imho. As he turns to go, he sees himself in a Full-length mirror. He drops the jar in fright. He looks down and sees the mess of blood and glass. He looks at the 'bakery Audience.

IGOR
Funny thing is... I tried!
He sweeps some of the mess under the table with his foot.
(muttering to himself)
Freud would have a heyday with this. Well...
He looks quickly at the "Blood table," grabs a jar from under the glass dome nearest to him, and leaves.
On the glass dome, whose contents Igor has just taken, is printed:
DO NOT USE THIS BLOOD!
"ABNORMAL"
thumbwax, Jul 16 2003
  

       The straightforward problem with using blood at all is that it provides a feedback loop for pathogens, so it will *always* be possible to be contaminated with some previously unidentified pathogen.   

       It is horrible to survive a horrible accident or major operation only to succumb later to AIDS or mad cow disease, but clearly there is a quality of life pay off somewhere between dying in a couple of hours from blood loss and risking exposure to a disease that will kill you over the course of years.   

       The long term solution is obviously coming up with an artifical blood substitute, that can be prepared in sterile conditions. Of course, it will likely come with its own side effects.
DrCurry, Jul 16 2003
  


 

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