The public doesn’t know this, but the blood banking industry is a huge money-making business. For example, the majority of the public does not know that there are no “free” blood products given (transfused) to patients like those depicted on billboards promoting blood donations. The blood banking industry has done a remarkable and incredible job with marketing, using posters depicting adorable children who supposedly need blood or platelets. The public has no idea how, and to what extent, they have been manipulated into believing blood banks are kind and generous organizations.
Marjorie Chalfant, RN, JD is a Registered Nurse and medical malpractice attorney with a specialty practice in blood bank litigation. This area of medical malpractice is very unique and there are very few lawyers in the U.S. – if any – who have specialized knowledge, training and experience to successfully represent victims of contaminated transfusion cases. Blood bank litigation is very complicated and highly politicized.
Because of her experience with contaminated transfusion cases, Ms. Chalfant knows what really “goes on behind closed doors” in the blood banking industry, and what causes death and catastrophic illness and injury to victims of contaminated platelet transfusions.
Each unit of blood – and platelets in particular – is sold by blood banks to hospitals for an average of $500.00 for each unit. The hospital, in turn, charges the patient an average of $2,000 for each unit of blood or blood product transfused (closer to $3,000 for platelets). Most patients who require a transfusion require multiple units. Using simple math multiplication quickly shows how profitable this blood banking industry is – especially since every unit is donated by public individuals in our communities.
Blood banks will often give donors a cookie and juice, and sometimes include a movie ticket or T-shirt, but this is a mere token for the profits to be made. Blood Bank Directors and CEOs earn about $500,000 each year, and sometimes more. Blood banking is a huge money-making business.
Blood bank malpractice often happens because of short cuts used by blood banks and hospitals to further maximize their profits – which can cause patients to die needlessly from contaminated transfusions.
The blood tests required by the FDA and the AABB (American Association of Blood Banks) for screening and bacterial detection are usually not performed correctly. For example, instead of using the recommended two-bottle test, blood banks only use one of the testing bottles, thereby cutting their testing costs in half. Only about 50% of hospitals use a “point of issue” (“POI”) test before the transfusion is given to a patient. The POI test only costs $29, but because a POI test is a “Quality Assurance” cost and not “treatment,” insurance companies won’t pay for it, so hospitals won’t purchase and use the test.
In many (not all) cases, blood and blood product transfusions are not critically needed, but are often given to “boost” a patient’s lab values.
Platelet transfusions are particularly risky because the platelets cannot be refrigerated or frozen and must be stored at room temperature – up to five days on the shelf. If even one bacterial organism makes its way into a platelet unit, it can multiply (“the blooming phase”) so that the unit becomes a highly toxic and deadly solution.
Most patients who receive transfusions are already ill, particularly children and elderly patients who require platelets due to chemotherapy, so if/when a patient dies from a contaminated unit the family often does not know that the transfusion killed the patient – not the underlying illness.
“Blood Shield” statutes are laws that arose with the HIV epidemic to protect blood banks from liability for transfusing contaminated blood and platelets. However, these protective laws giving blood banks immunity only apply when the required tests have been performed properly.
In virtually every case of death from a contaminated platelet transfusion, investigation will reveal the minimum required tests were not performed properly, and shortcuts were taken.
We are not encouraging the public to stop donating their blood or platelets. However, be informed of what’s really going on with the blood banking industry: the industry’s marketing campaign using posters of adorable children; testing shortcuts that maximize profits; and be informed that donated blood is not being used for charitable causes, but rather, huge profits are being made in this industry.
If you or a loved one has suffered severe illness or death from a contaminated platelet transfusion, call us now to talk with our nurse attorney Marjorie Chalfant about your case, or send us an email with your contact information.