Wednesday, 21 September 2016 14:28

Education is the key to learning from history

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There are starting to be generations of people who don’t know the reference to the “tainted blood scandal.”


Some adults who are in their 30s and early 40s, were mere children at the time of what was Canada’s worst public health care disaster. Should it be any surprise then, that those same people were absent from meetings across Alberta last week hosted by the Friends of Medicare and BloodWatch.org?
Officials with those organizations are raising the alarm bells over what they see as a threat to a national blood system. They want to see blood and plasma donation and collection remain public. They also don’t believe donors should be paid for their blood or plasma.
Friends of Medicare in Alberta plan to lobby the provincial government in both the upcoming fall and if necessary spring sessions, to pass legislation that would ban a private, for-profit, donor-paid collection system.
BloodWatch.org officials want to see this kind of legislation across the provinces and territories much like what Ontario and Quebec already has in place.
The groups may have some work ahead of them to educate the younger public about why this is so important. BloodWatch.org does a phenomenal job on its website. An informative timeline has been set up with short bites of information detailing the tainted blood scandal history and the fight to continue to see a public, national blood system in place.
Spend just a few minutes on the website and one begins to understand the importance of remembering this Canadian history. When tainted blood was imported into Canada in the early 1980s, it came from a U.S. prison. The same rigorous testing done on blood products today, was not instituted until the mid-1980s. Thousands of hemophiliacs and others were given the tainted blood resulting in 30,000 people infected with Hepatitis C and 2,000 Canadians infected with HIV. About 8,000 people will die (many of them already have), because of receiving these tainted blood products. It literally took decades to not only review the situation and what led to the public health nightmare, but then properly compensate the victims.
Most people pay homage to the adage that history repeats itself. This is definitely a history we do not want repeated. We need a blood system that operates at arm’s length of government, to avoid political interference. We need that system to run less like a business, and more like a public health service.
Blood is life. It is required for numerous types of medical conditions and scenarios.
According to Canadian Blood Services, it can take up to five donors to help one patient requiring heart surgery or cancer treatment.
A car crash may require up to 50 donors. Someone with leukemia requires the blood or blood products of up to eight donors each week.
As important as it is to give, it’s more important blood or blood products are safe to receive. Canadian Blood Services officials make sure that happens, but can the same be said of a private corporation that can purchase your plasma for a $25 gift card and then sell it for more than $300 on the world market? Will safety be that company’s first priority or are the monetary rewards too great a temptation to sacrifice that safety? These are just some of the legitimate questions the Friends of Medicare and BloodWatch.org officials are asking. While they’re asking them, it’s a good opportunity to continue to educate a population of people who don’t know the history of blood collection in Canada or even the importance of giving.
We’d encourage readers to do some digging of their own by checking out the good information online at BloodWatch.org and the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) website at: www.blood.ca.
The CBS also includes on its website an indicator of its inventory levels. For most of the summer that has been well below optimal levels of at least 20,000 units. Consider doing your part and donating blood. As CBS officials say: “It’s in you to give.”
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
There are starting to be generations of people who don’t know the reference to the “tainted blood scandal.”
Some adults who are in their 30s and early 40s, were mere children at the time of what was Canada’s worst public health care disaster. Should it be any surprise then, that those same people were absent from meetings across Alberta last week hosted by the Friends of Medicare and BloodWatch.org?
Officials with those organizations are raising the alarm bells over what they see as a threat to a national blood system. They want to see blood and plasma donation and collection remain public. They also don’t believe donors should be paid for their blood or plasma.
Friends of Medicare in Alberta plan to lobby the provincial government in both the upcoming fall and if necessary spring sessions, to pass legislation that would ban a private, for-profit, donor-paid collection system.
BloodWatch.org officials want to see this kind of legislation across the provinces and territories much like what Ontario and Quebec already has in place.
The groups may have some work ahead of them to educate the younger public about why this is so important. BloodWatch.org does a phenomenal job on its website. An informative timeline has been set up with short bites of information detailing the tainted blood scandal history and the fight to continue to see a public, national blood system in place.
Spend just a few minutes on the website and one begins to understand the importance of remembering this Canadian history. When tainted blood was imported into Canada in the early 1980s, it came from a U.S. prison. The same rigorous testing done on blood products today, was not instituted until the mid-1980s. Thousands of hemophiliacs and others were given the tainted blood resulting in 30,000 people infected with Hepatitis C and 2,000 Canadians infected with HIV. About 8,000 people will die (many of them already have), because of receiving these tainted blood products. It literally took decades to not only review the situation and what led to the public health nightmare, but then properly compensate the victims.
Most people pay homage to the adage that history repeats itself. This is definitely a history we do not want repeated. We need a blood system that operates at arm’s length of government, to avoid political interference. We need that system to run less like a business, and more like a public health service.
Blood is life. It is required for numerous types of medical conditions and scenarios.
According to Canadian Blood Services, it can take up to five donors to help one patient requiring heart surgery or cancer treatment.
A car crash may require up to 50 donors. Someone with leukemia requires the blood or blood products of up to eight donors each week.
As important as it is to give, it’s more important blood or blood products are safe to receive. Canadian Blood Services officials make sure that happens, but can the same be said of a private corporation that can purchase your plasma for a $25 gift card and then sell it for more than $300 on the world market? Will safety be that company’s first priority or are the monetary rewards too great a temptation to sacrifice that safety? These are just some of the legitimate questions the Friends of Medicare and BloodWatch.org officials are asking. While they’re asking them, it’s a good opportunity to continue to educate a population of people who don’t know the history of blood collection in Canada or even the importance of giving.
We’d encourage readers to do some digging of their own by checking out the good information online at BloodWatch.org and the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) website at: www.blood.ca.
The CBS also includes on its website an indicator of its inventory levels. For most of the summer that has been well below optimal levels of at least 20,000 units. Consider doing your part and donating blood. As CBS officials say: “It’s in you to give.”
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor