"Bad Blood"

The evolution of technology within the medical field has taken on a vast development allowing for more effective treatment options for diseases, that affect everyday life factors for many people. From insulin for diabetes, to the treatments of one particular genetic disease, hemophilia The lack of medical precaution taken for the developing treatments for hemophilia is a prime example of the vast amount of leniency our government allows in regards to public health.

Hemophilia is a genetic disease found in the X chromosome that affects the clotting factor within blood (Factor IV). Without this particular factor found in blood a patient can find themselves in excruciating pain after they have had a paper cut, or hit there leg on a chair, because their bodies to not contain the proper factor within them to stop bleeding. This results in cases of internal bleeding and death from excessive loss of blood. From the early 1940’s up until the late 1950’s treatments for these bleeds consisted of transfusions of whole blood in order to replace the factor in order to be rid of the bleed and allow the blood to clot. The issue with this is that one can have patients sit through the excruciating pain of the bleed for hours even days to be rid of it. This caused the lives of hemophiliacs to be long and painful. In 1957 Charles R Drew discovered the use of a discarded substance while researching blood. This was the plasma which could be separated from whole blood in order to suffice as a quicker and safer means of curing bleeds. It was able to be packaged and sold to hospitals for the treatment of hemophiliacs from Hours or days of excruciating pain to merely one or two hours due to the waiting room. However while this development was a breakthrough the real means to a normal life for hemophiliacs came several years down the line in the mid 1960’s where the separation of complete factor from plasma became possible.

This breakthrough in science allowed for a convenient and normal lifestyle for hemophiliacs. Now able to play sports and partake in extra curricular without the strain of and constant anxiety of a bleed. Nevertheless where hope seems to shed its light we begin to see a dark truth behind the curtain of such a miracle. In order to supply and maintain a proper or substantial amount of blood toward hospitals, several blood banks had imposed locations within impoverished areas where one could donate blood and receive a cash compensation for their donation. However the predicament one can often find in offering money for donations such as blood allows a motive for people to lie about their health. For instance, if a heroin addict who has been diagnosed with HIV is offered an easy and quick way to earn money, they would have no concern for those who would be receiving the blood that they have donated but that of their own well being. Also withholding the factor of testing peoples blood to save time and resources those who could have been infected had given blood. The method of which blood was processed to create factor was also irresponsible. Blood from several different people regardless of type, conditions, and age, were being to mixed together in large basins in order to process and separate factor from blood more quickly in larger amounts. Therefore if we return to the blood bank where someone has contracted HIV/AIDS virus and gave their blood in order to receive cash and their blood is then mixed into these large basins where the blood is processed the entire supply of blood has been infected.

This entire system of giving taking and processing blood resulting in a massive outbreak of HIV among American Hemophiliacs using the factor IIIV. This was at about the same time that HIV had become a worldwide epidemic and hit the US resulting in homophobia and fear of hemophiliacs who had also contracted the disease. Despite these horrific circumstances there was never a recall of the Factor IIV, instead a warning label had been placed upon the bottle and those who were more aware or afraid of them or their children contracting HIV had gone back to the use of whole plasma which was a longer process but much safer. However the use of plasma for treatment had become nearly obsolete since the development of the separation of factor IIV. The pharmaceutical companies who had allowed this amount of harm to come to innocent people were never required to submit to a recall or nor were they required refund those who had been infected and continued to profit off of their treatments.

When asked, the medical industry in charge of the developing treatments for hemophilia might say that because of its rarity it was not a priority to seek out treatment therefore more strict regulations were not called for, but on closer inspection the issue was not with the priorities of the diseases, but with that of profit for there was no immediate recall of factor IV in fact there never was one.

Comments (1)

Tamira Bell (Student 2016)
Tamira Bell

Soledad, you did a phenomenal job in presenting information about infected blood and people affected with hemophilia. Your essay has altered my understanding about this topic. I never knew about the blood banks in poor areas or about how plasma could be used in the treatment of hemophilia. I could tell that you really know what talking about by the manner in which you presented your information. Your paper evolved from talking about hemophilia to the lenient regulations that the government has issued upon collecting blood.

I can't even think of a counter argument. Great job!!