American Red Cross expresses regret on segregating blood based on race

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NEW YORK (WWTI) — The American Red Cross expressed their regrets for segregating blood based on race when they had no scientific reason to do so.

A press release from the company stated that the decision to separate blood based on the color of the individuals skin was made in 1942, accommodating cultural norms of the time rather than relying on scientifically based facts. This practice ended in 1948 when it was determined that there was no scientific or medical basis to do so.

The Red Cross apologized for the decisions that were made during that period of time.

“We acknowledge that this practice was hurtful, and recognize these actions contributed to continued mistrust and pain for Black communities, where health disparities continue to be felt disproportionately. Today, the Red Cross stands firm in its dedication to diversity and inclusivity, and resoundingly rejects hate, racism and bigotry of any kind,” the Red Cross said in a press release.

Since then scientific advancements have contributed to what the company has been able to learn about blood and its unique characteristics. This included the discovery that some unique protein structures can be found on individuals who are Black’s red blood cells and can make it difficult to find a compatible unit of blood in other donor populations.

According to the Red Cross, research has also discovered that there are more than 600 known antigens for red blood cells beyond the well-known A, B, O and AB blood types, and some antigens are unique to specific racial and ethnic groups. This information is important to take into account when planning transfusions for patients with sickle cell disease, who, in the U.S., are mostly individuals who are Black. If a patient has this haplotype, they say it is more likely that they will find the most compatible blood product match from a Black donor.

The company said that because there are many patients with rare blood types including sickle cell, it is important that individuals of all races donate. They added that patients in this situation are more likely to find a compatible blood match from a blood donor of the same race or ethnicity.

Those interested in donating can find locations and times on the American Red Cross website.

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