There will be blood

Editorial April 13, 2010

While the country’s financial institutions receive attention as part of the life-blood of the economy, more attention needs to be given to the actual life-blood of this country, the blood banks that, according to a report in this newspaper, still seem to be tainted with mishandling and poor screening.

The government’s projects in the last few years have been a welcome, two-pronged effort focused on creating a blood donation culture and providing screened blood to needy patients. Still, the process needs to be improved. While the inquiry concerning the death of a young patient at a major government hospital in Karachi has ruled out the possibility of a botched blood transfusion as the cause of death, the family remains doubtful. Certainly the process of donating blood is not without serious problems, the most basic of which stems from human error in labelling and handling blood donations.

In addition, doctors warn that the quality of donated blood can be suspect, due to a lack of comprehensive testing. Among the most prevalent problems are not testing for anaemia, a common ailment among some of the poorer donors.More also needs to be done to prevent donations by so-called professional blood donors, deemed unethical internationally and considered to be of dubious sources.

The government’s efforts to pump money into blood donation projects and centres are commendable. Yet perhaps that money could be most effectively used by taking a cue from our Indian neighbours, who are working to institute a centralised blood bank centre, which blood transfusion recipients can call and have access to real-time information concerning available stores.

The Indian centre will use biometrics to capture fingerprints and then photograph and issue a unique ID number for each donor. The process aims to completely bypass a computerized database through the use of biometrics, and eliminate professional donors. For our part, while to err is human, that adage should be taken to heart by creating more efficient screening methods and more reliance on technology to sidestep mishandling and mishaps.


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