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July 12, 2000

Will Blood Transfusion Ever Be Safe Enough?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Department of Transfusion Medicine, Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

JAMA. 2000;284(2):238-240. doi:10.1001/jama.284.2.238

Is blood transfusion safe, or is blood one of the most dangerous drugs in the physician's therapeutic armamentarium? The articles by Glynn et al1 and Ling et al2 in this issue of THE JOURNAL embody the quintessential paradox of blood transfusion: blood is safer than ever, but the usual notions of safety do not necessarily apply where transfusion is concerned.1,2 Perhaps it is the mythical and spiritual significance that has been attached to blood by many cultures, or perhaps the devastation inflicted on the recipients of blood infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Whatever the reason, blood seems to have gained a singular status—simultaneously feared and revered. Developed countries have come to demand absolute freedom from transfusion-transmitted infection, while simultaneously conceding that zero-risk transfusion is unlikely to ever be achieved.

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