By Lauren Hummel
Toronto – Canadian Blood Services celebrated its 10th anniversary September 26, 2008. After the tainted blood scandal that occurred in the 1970s to the 1980s, it has modernized the blood system with sophisticated tests to analyze every unit of donated blood.
According to Canadian Blood Services’ Annual Report released in 2008, more than eight in 10 Canadians trust the blood system. Only 58% of Canadians believed receiving a blood transfusion was safe in 1998.
“They’ve done extraordinarily well,” said Laurie Pratt, the coordinator of equipment services for donor testing. “They really attacked human error in critical areas with automation…and it’s ongoing.”
Canadian Blood Services was created because of recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada, also known as the Krever Commission.
The Commission investigated the tainted blood scandal that was the largest public health disaster in Canadian history. More than 1,000 Canadians were infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after receiving contaminated blood transfusions, and about 20,000 more Canadians were infected with hepatitis C.
The Krever commission proposed a national organization be established to rebuild Canada’s blood system and public trust.
“One of the things that came out of the Krever commission was called the precautionary principle,” Pratt said. “If you don’t know if something’s wrong, assume something is wrong, and move ahead to try to minimize that harm.”
Now the non-profit organization is looking to expand its responsibilities. On August 12, it received $35 million over five years from the provincial, territorial, and federal governments to expand the Unrelated Bone Marrow Donor Registry and rename it the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network. In order to attract new donors, a simple swab kit is mailed to every registrant’s home instead of using blood tests.
Stem cells are used to treat diseases such as certain forms of cancer, bone marrow deficiency diseases, and immune system disorders. Last year, there were almost 19,000 new registrants for OneMatch. This year, five hundred Canadian patients and 200 international patients require stem cells.
Pratt said that Canadian Blood Services is looking to implement new tests and technology, such as the test to detect West Nile virus that cost Canadian Blood Services approximately $20 million to carry out in 2003.
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