Concerns About Contaminated Blood
WHEN Demetrio Pessoa, a biochemist in Bolivia, ran into complications after surgery, he was rushed to a clinic. There he received a blood transfusion, and his situation stabilized. Before long, however, the biochemist broke out in a fever. After examining him, the doctors told him the bad news: Mr. Pessoa had received blood contaminated with the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. As a consequence, he had become a victim of Chagas’ disease.
Mr. Pessoa’s case is no exception in Bolivia, notes Panos, a London-based news organization. A lengthy medical study carried out in 12 Latin-American countries shows that in that part of the world, infections caused by contaminated blood are everyday occurrences. In one Latin-American country, of every 10,000 patients who received a blood transfusion, 220 ended up with an infectious disease. That means that 1 out of every 45 persons given a blood transfusion became a victim!
Chagas’ disease, though, is not the only threat. The same study shows that several Latin-American countries did not test donated blood for hepatitis C and that in some countries tests for syphilis were carried out only occasionally. In addition, a number of countries lacked sufficient equipment to test blood for HIV. When speaking about contaminated blood, Tonchi Marinkovic, the Bolivian minister of health, said: “God save us from an emergency, because we might end up with a medical crisis of syphilis, hepatitis, Chagas’ or AIDS.”
Unwittingly, this government official was pointing in the right direction for halting this threatening medical crisis. The journal Notícias Bolivianas noted some years ago in an article on the risks of blood transfusions: “Abstinence from blood is recommended in harmony with the Biblical commandment.” The Biblical command that this Bolivian journal refers to is found at Acts 15:29. It says: “Keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper.”—See also Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 3:17.