hits counter Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce - Ebook PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce

Availability: Ready to download

Powerfully involving narrative and incisive detail, clarity and inherent drama: Blood offers in abundance the qualities that define the best popular science writing. Here is the sweeping story of a substance that has been feared, revered, mythologized, and used in magic and medicine from earliest times--a substance that has become the center of a huge, secretive, and often Powerfully involving narrative and incisive detail, clarity and inherent drama: Blood offers in abundance the qualities that define the best popular science writing. Here is the sweeping story of a substance that has been feared, revered, mythologized, and used in magic and medicine from earliest times--a substance that has become the center of a huge, secretive, and often dangerous worldwide commerce. Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Blood was described by judges as "a gripping page-turner, a significant contribution to the history of medicine and technology and a cautionary tale. Meticulously reported and exhaustively documented."


Compare

Powerfully involving narrative and incisive detail, clarity and inherent drama: Blood offers in abundance the qualities that define the best popular science writing. Here is the sweeping story of a substance that has been feared, revered, mythologized, and used in magic and medicine from earliest times--a substance that has become the center of a huge, secretive, and often Powerfully involving narrative and incisive detail, clarity and inherent drama: Blood offers in abundance the qualities that define the best popular science writing. Here is the sweeping story of a substance that has been feared, revered, mythologized, and used in magic and medicine from earliest times--a substance that has become the center of a huge, secretive, and often dangerous worldwide commerce. Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Blood was described by judges as "a gripping page-turner, a significant contribution to the history of medicine and technology and a cautionary tale. Meticulously reported and exhaustively documented."

30 review for Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce

  1. 5 out of 5

    Karin

    What began as a piece of research for work, became a riveting study of one the most critical pieces of humanity: human blood. Starr’s book is a stunning look at superstitions, medicine, war, invention, illness, politics, money, greed, defeat, humility and change. The gripping tale had me hooked from chapter one and took me through a long and twisted history of the human race. Starr breaks the book into three main areas: Blood Magic, Blood Wars and Blood Money. In each area he focuses on not just What began as a piece of research for work, became a riveting study of one the most critical pieces of humanity: human blood. Starr’s book is a stunning look at superstitions, medicine, war, invention, illness, politics, money, greed, defeat, humility and change. The gripping tale had me hooked from chapter one and took me through a long and twisted history of the human race. Starr breaks the book into three main areas: Blood Magic, Blood Wars and Blood Money. In each area he focuses on not just the uses of blood, but the overall perception of the product or gift, the underlying implications for its presence in our bodies and in medicine, our understanding and misunderstanding of its properties and how it helped shape the particular period of history being discussed. Blood Magic goes back to the beginning of when we first see or hear of blood being used, primarily through the use of blood letting to relieve a variety of illnesses. Doctors bled patients for every ailment imaginable. They bled for pneumonia, fevers, and back pain; for diseases of the liver and spleen; for rheumatism; for a nonspecific ailment known as ‘going into a decline’; for headaches and melancholia, hypertension and apoplexy. They bled to heal bone fractures, to stop other wounds from bleeding and simply to maintain a bodily tone. (pg. 17) Starr tells us how George Washington, suffering from what doctors now consider strep throat, instructed his doctors to bleed him to relive the pain and constriction. As part of his treatment, over the course of 13 hours, 7.5 pints of blood was let from his body (consider that most adults have 10-12 pints total in the body). This led to preterminal anemia, hypovolemia and hypotension. Washington (68) died the same day. Starr further discusses the transition of viewing blood as one of the four “humors” in our body carrying mystical powers, to a key component running throughout our body and being highly involved in our coronary, systemic, pulmonary and renal circulation systems. The concept and practice of transfusion became more common though blood typing had not yet taken place, which led to numerous deaths and complications. Blood Wars talks about how blood was a key component in WWI and WWII and theorizes (very successfully) how the availability of blood and plasma helped the Allies win WWII. Starr discusses the rapid growth and understanding of blood during this period of time including the discovery of blood types (A, B, O), the discovery of the process of fractionation and being able to use the different components of blood (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma) in a variety of applications and the discovery and use of citrate and other anticoagulants to store blood longer. Lastly, Blood Money talks about the evolution of the Red Cross, independent non-profit blood banks affiliated with the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), of which my current employer is associated, and for-profit blood banks and plasma centers. Starr talks about the evolution of illnesses like Hepatitis and eventually AIDS and the failings of the industry and countless governments to protect the blood and plasma supply and how we senselessly infected thousands of hemophiliacs and ordinary citizens through unsafe supply and transfusion procedures. He talks in detail about many of the profit plasma centers created in impoverished sections of cities where the poor and unhealthy are exploited for a few dollars a pint, while the plasma center turns a profit of many times over what they paid the donor. Only since the late 90s has sufficient, consistent testing been run on this product to ensure its safety for the general population. The book was eye-opening, educational and often times heart rending. I’ve been so ignorant regarding much of our history related to blood and the tragic epidemic of AIDS that is stampeding mercilessly throughout our world. This book helped give me a microscopic, scientific, but human glance into the larger picture and to understand different angles of this multi-dimensional topic. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a fascinating tale of our history. I hope to one day make this required reading for my kids (*a few curse words are used in the stories told of a couple of the AIDS victims who were unwittingly transfused with the virus either through blood transfusion or through the injection of Factor VIII for treatment of hemophilia). I’ll leave you with a couple of the critics’ comments of this book. “Starr’s lively history…courses with greed, altruism, and woozily vivid details.” Entertainment Weekly “Meticulously researched, elegantly told.” Newsday “Starr writes like a wildly enthusiastic high school biology teacher who arrives each day bristling with excitement, leaping about before the chalkboard, cracking jokes, and zealously banging his fist on his desk. Even the most indifferent brats pay attention, and so too will readers. …Starr has created what amounts to a history of the human race perceived through the filter of blood as a medical product.” Village Voice Literary Supplement “A vivid account.” The Economist “Blood should be included in all first- and second-year medical curricula.” Scientific American “This is first-class science writing, with a striking message.” Publishers Weekly

  2. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    I have been putting off writing this review for almost a month, but I recently gave blood for the first time since reading it, and doing so just reaffirmed how great this book was. Blood is divided up into three parts. The first discusses the mysticism surrounding blood, particularly in the Middle Ages. It discusses the history of blood-letting and the beginning of transfusions, including those from animal-to-human and human-to-human. This section was interesting, but standard fare. The second sec I have been putting off writing this review for almost a month, but I recently gave blood for the first time since reading it, and doing so just reaffirmed how great this book was. Blood is divided up into three parts. The first discusses the mysticism surrounding blood, particularly in the Middle Ages. It discusses the history of blood-letting and the beginning of transfusions, including those from animal-to-human and human-to-human. This section was interesting, but standard fare. The second section was some of the most fascinating, gripping non-fiction I have ever read. It detailed rise of the blood industry during the two world wars, from the use of plasma on beaches in the Pacific to Dr. Janet Vaughan's creation of blood banks in England before the Blitz. I had never heard of most of the people or stories that this section discussed, but they came across as the absolute best humanity had to offer. The bravery involved in driving through a pitch-black London in the middle of a German bombing to deliver blood to hospitals is staggering, as is that of Dr. Frederico Duran-Jorda, who transported blood to hospitals in the midst of fighting on the front-lines of the Spanish Civil War. All of it was just incredible. The explanation of the science and medical research behind it all was also extremely accessible and well written. Bottom line, my main thought on finishing this section of the book was that there needed to be a movie made about it, stat. The last part of the book detailed the rise of the blood services complex and how its practices in the late 20th century ultimately led to an AIDS-tainted blood supply that infected thousands of hemophiliacs and others who required blood transfusions. While the previous section showed some of humanity's best, this one showed some of its worst. I felt sick to my stomach while reading most of this section, as I learned about the greed and willful ignorance that led to countless patient deaths from contact with tainted blood. Over 75% of the world's hemophiliacs died from AIDS due to contaminated clotting factors. The numbers are staggering and almost incomprehensible. Additionally, I also found fascinating the discussion of different nations' varying attitudes toward blood and how this attitude affected its handling of the AIDS crisis. It also gave me a new understanding and appreciation of the current screening procedures that are now in place when one goes to donate blood. I have thought about this book almost daily since I read it. An incredibly eye-opening read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Russell

    So much knowledge relevant to me and my interests, but so much new information about it. Not the standard book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Janine

    (Book club selection for Fall, 2018)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    As a veterinary clinical pathology resident (aka, "blood nerd"), I found this book fascinating. The first section, which discusses the history of blood and how it evolved to be used in medicine, gave me great insight and appreciation for those pioneers, despite how sometimes disturbing their experiments were. Learning how transfusion evolved, how blood groups and cross-matching developed, and how they learned about the various components of blood was incredible to learn. Although it's difficult As a veterinary clinical pathology resident (aka, "blood nerd"), I found this book fascinating. The first section, which discusses the history of blood and how it evolved to be used in medicine, gave me great insight and appreciation for those pioneers, despite how sometimes disturbing their experiments were. Learning how transfusion evolved, how blood groups and cross-matching developed, and how they learned about the various components of blood was incredible to learn. Although it's difficult to imagine a time without transfusion medicine and fractionation, it's amazing to note that these are relatively recent developments. The book then continues into blood's role in WWII, and the differences between the Allies and the Nazis and their use of blood and blood products. The second section of the book focuses on how blood banking developed, primarily in the United States; I will say this section did drag for me, as it involved a lot of politics and infighting, but it also laid the groundwork for the horrific Hepatitis B/C and HIV/AIDS epidemics that broke in the 1970's and 1980's and how the blood supply became contaminated. It's easy to look back now and judge a lot of these organizations made in the 1960's and 1970's, given what we know now about blood-borne diseases, but I had to remember that this was how we learned about this. The most horrific section of the book discusses these epidemics, focusing primarily on HIV - I wanted to scream at the companies and doctors and CEOs that, even once they learned that their products were the source of the infections, they buried their heads in the sand and then proceeded to continue to sell their products. Even once they were banned in the US, they then went on to sell them internationally. I recommend this book not only to fellow "blood nerds" like myself, but to anyone who complains about the "invasiveness" of the questionaire that is asked of the donor prior to blood collection. How quickly people forget.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    I enjoyed Blood, and certainly have a much better understanding of the evolution of the the blood service industry. But the book is a bit mis-leading..it seems to me the story book really want to tell is the story of the AIDS epidemic in the blood supply, and why so many people became infected after receiving blood, and blood products, well after the outbreak of the disease itself. However, the context of answering that question cannot be adequately explained without walking the reader back throu I enjoyed Blood, and certainly have a much better understanding of the evolution of the the blood service industry. But the book is a bit mis-leading..it seems to me the story book really want to tell is the story of the AIDS epidemic in the blood supply, and why so many people became infected after receiving blood, and blood products, well after the outbreak of the disease itself. However, the context of answering that question cannot be adequately explained without walking the reader back through our early understanding of blood. This context, though interesting, is but a lead-in to the real point of the book, and less a thorough background of 'all things blood'. The writing itself was sometimes dry - I found myself wishing that the topic could have been written by a Malcolm Gladwell, or Bill Bryson - someone that could give it that extra signature to move the pages through. It's a solid 2.5, but I'll grant it 3 for detail and research.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Second only to water, blood is the most precious liquid on our planet. In my line of work, I am routinely splattered by it, and its presence signifies disease and infection. I am still fascinated by blood, though, as are millions of people. Blood has long been a mystery to humans and continues to intrigue and repel us, as evidenced by the endless popularity of vampire-themed books and movies and the all too real horror of the AIDS crisis. Douglas Starr's incredible work delves into the history o Second only to water, blood is the most precious liquid on our planet. In my line of work, I am routinely splattered by it, and its presence signifies disease and infection. I am still fascinated by blood, though, as are millions of people. Blood has long been a mystery to humans and continues to intrigue and repel us, as evidenced by the endless popularity of vampire-themed books and movies and the all too real horror of the AIDS crisis. Douglas Starr's incredible work delves into the history of blood and the doctors who worked tirelessly to demystify the misconceptions of blood and put it to good use. Well into the 1980's, though, blood continued to elude even the brightest minds. The tragedy of hemophiliacs, hepatitis and AIDS continues to scar thousands of people worldwide and proves how precious a resource blood is, and how deadly a weapon it can be.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book chronicles the blood industry through the first transfusions leading up to the commerce of blood through donations and the Red Cross. The book details the spread of AIDS through tainted blood which pretty much wiped out the entire hemophiliac population that were dependent on these donations and the corrective actions that followed. A very interesting and informative read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ro_runner

    Very interesting & surprisingly "readable." I highly recommend this book for health care providers, blood product donors & recipients, & anyone interested in blood products or the blood banking industry. Very interesting & surprisingly "readable." I highly recommend this book for health care providers, blood product donors & recipients, & anyone interested in blood products or the blood banking industry.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Reddy Mallender-Katzy

    THIS IS ONE OF MY ABSOLUTE FAV BOOKS EVER !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Fohl

    A surprising treat. I thought I knew a lot about blood, from working in the field. This book handles the science well, and is organized conveniently for the reader. The science history is not comprehensive, but the book is full of information and entertaining stories I have never heard before. I enjoyed all three sections. Some of the scandals in the third section were difficult to follow. I’m glad the author gave this story a global perspective. Its interesting to see how countries handled bloo A surprising treat. I thought I knew a lot about blood, from working in the field. This book handles the science well, and is organized conveniently for the reader. The science history is not comprehensive, but the book is full of information and entertaining stories I have never heard before. I enjoyed all three sections. Some of the scandals in the third section were difficult to follow. I’m glad the author gave this story a global perspective. Its interesting to see how countries handled blood need in WWII and the AIDS crisis differently due to ideology. An important example of the power of culture on science and technology. I had no idea what the world of blood products was like before AIDS. The stories of the third world plasma collection centers were shocking. If you enjoy moral arguments, war history, science, or the law you will find something to love in this book. “At every stage of the AIDS epidemic... the Americans acted more quickly than any others. Still, given the scope of the tragedy... one must ask whether the American blood establishment could have acted more effectively.” What I learned: Early transfusions were attempts to change personality traits. Russians used cadaver blood effectively. Dr Kevorkian did an investigation of cadaver blood transfusions in the 1960s. Blood superstitions are all over the world. Indians would have limp arms from psychosomatic distress after giving blood. Bram Stoker was writing about cutting edge science when he included a blood transfusion scene in Dracula. So many pharmaceuticals had the potential to give baby boomers hepatitis. The French put 5% of the world’s placentas in wine presses to extract plasma. Ryan White and the Ray brothers were barred from attending school. How terrible and painful hemophilia is to the joints.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce is much more narrowly focused than I expected, based on the title. In actuality, it's a history of transfusion. It's also older than I realized (published in 2000) and a little dated due to that. It's also one of the driest books I've ever managed to make myself complete. At 496 pages, it feels like a lot more. Even in the final chapter and epilogue I had trouble pushing myself through to the finish line. I stuck with it because it truly is an inte Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce is much more narrowly focused than I expected, based on the title. In actuality, it's a history of transfusion. It's also older than I realized (published in 2000) and a little dated due to that. It's also one of the driest books I've ever managed to make myself complete. At 496 pages, it feels like a lot more. Even in the final chapter and epilogue I had trouble pushing myself through to the finish line. I stuck with it because it truly is an interesting topic, incredibly well researched, and definitely intended to be accessible, if not quite actually there. My other biggest problem with Blood is the homophobia -- it's clearly not intentionally homophobic, but the author refers to "gays," constantly uses the term '"innocent" victims of AIDS,' and is a proponent for screening gay men out of the donor pool, even with a reliable test for AIDS, and even with the shifting demographics of who's most likely to have AIDS (which is not mentioned within the book).  On the positives, the book is well arranged around eras of blood, starting with early attempts at transfusion (terrifyingly misguided, how on earth did humanity survive to this point), cultural beliefs around blood, underlying social factors that affected later donor pools and comfort around transfusion. The second section is largely about World War II and the leaps forward made in transfusion technology around it. The third section is about the effect of AIDS on the blood industry. It's not a book I would recommend to anyone who isn't interested in blood and the transfusion industry, but I definitely learned a lot, about blood, transfusion, and hemophilia.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shannen

    This book was very informative and interesting but it seemed focused primarily on transfusions. While that is fascinating and it provides a nice overview of the development of this process, I wanted more. I was really invested in the early chapters where they talked about managing the physical aspects of transfusions (from better equipment to blood typing and the chemistry to store blood and keep it from clotting) and started to lose interest in the middle when it went on and on about plasma pro This book was very informative and interesting but it seemed focused primarily on transfusions. While that is fascinating and it provides a nice overview of the development of this process, I wanted more. I was really invested in the early chapters where they talked about managing the physical aspects of transfusions (from better equipment to blood typing and the chemistry to store blood and keep it from clotting) and started to lose interest in the middle when it went on and on about plasma products. It picked up again at the end a bit more (and all that plasma product talk became more relevent) when it went into the spread of hepatitis and AIDS. What I would have liked to see was more about blood itself and not just its byproducts and use in transfusions, but information about how it became so widely used to test so many things in the body and when they started using these tests, how that fit in with the overall history we were being given. We're given a little info on testing related to AIDS and hepatitis but not to other diseases that can be determined by a blood test or other levels of things in the blood that can tell us about our health. Likewise we are told about the evolution of transfusion equipment but not about basic phlebotomy practices (switching from syringes to the evacuated tube system for example). I'd also like to read about the use of blood in forensics; how viable the samples they get are and how much they can learn from them. But the book focuses singularly on transfusions and blood products as if this is all we've ever done with blood, without even a passing mention to other branches of development.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aurélien Thomas

    Sure, 'Blood' is not for the squeamish as some passages can be very graphic! Plus, very detailed, it is at times quite technical from a medical perspective and, therefore, maybe a bit hard to follow. Having said that, here's a broad and enticing book. Not only because it's a very good scientific look into an interesting topic but, also and especially, because dealing with the fascinating, curious, shocking, and at times frankly weird, history behind blood transfusions, Davis Starr offers an enga Sure, 'Blood' is not for the squeamish as some passages can be very graphic! Plus, very detailed, it is at times quite technical from a medical perspective and, therefore, maybe a bit hard to follow. Having said that, here's a broad and enticing book. Not only because it's a very good scientific look into an interesting topic but, also and especially, because dealing with the fascinating, curious, shocking, and at times frankly weird, history behind blood transfusions, Davis Starr offers an engaging questioning of how we deal with blood as a resource. Is it only a natural human tissue or, does its use makes it a product to be submitted to the same trade laws as any other goods? The debate, extremely relevant considering the health and safety factors attached to it (see the appalling account of how the AIDS epidemic unfolded) is haunting the whole book and yet, looking at different views in different countries (USA, Japan, France...) the answer is not as straightforward as it seems... History, science, ethics... 'Blood' has it all and, even if daunting at times, it is an engrossing read about one of our most valuable resource. Interesting and engaging.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Loki

    This isn't a bad book, but its scope is considerably less wide than its subtitle may lead you to expect. The early chapters concentrate on the development of blood transfusions, and the attendant scientific discoveries that followed such as the discovery of blood types and so on. However, it rapidly turns into a history less of blood than of the institutions that gather, dispense and most prominently, sell it - and does so almost entirely from an American perspective. It also gives surprisingly This isn't a bad book, but its scope is considerably less wide than its subtitle may lead you to expect. The early chapters concentrate on the development of blood transfusions, and the attendant scientific discoveries that followed such as the discovery of blood types and so on. However, it rapidly turns into a history less of blood than of the institutions that gather, dispense and most prominently, sell it - and does so almost entirely from an American perspective. It also gives surprisingly little mention of vaccinations and their relevance to the story of blood. (Note: I read the first 300 pages before giving up on the final quarter of the book. Perhaps its discussion of AIDS is better than I give it credit for, though it would truly stun me to learn that it was less Americo-centric.)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Pavlis

    Exactly what I was looking for!!! Working for Canadian Blood Services, I have been curious about the history of blood collection and transfusion. This book is well researched and written and gave me an insight into how and why we do the things we do to collect blood. Invaluable resource!!

  17. 4 out of 5

    b bb bbbb bbbbbbbb

    I didn't expect it to be such a page turner. An interesting, engaging (euro-centric) history of blood transfusion. The narrative becomes progressively tragic as it approaches the modern hepatitis and AIDS epidemics, and how industry and government handled them. I didn't expect it to be such a page turner. An interesting, engaging (euro-centric) history of blood transfusion. The narrative becomes progressively tragic as it approaches the modern hepatitis and AIDS epidemics, and how industry and government handled them.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Degruccio

    A really good summary and historical perspective of blood and its products resulting in the entire commerce that controls modern day medical care and practice. Special emphasis on mistakes made along the way and potential future hazards.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Simon Fletcher

    An authoritative review of blood and its importance in the culture. Along with Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On an important review of the contaminated blood enquiry. Could have been improved by a wider review of the meaning of Blood from a religious perspective. An authoritative review of blood and its importance in the culture. Along with Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On an important review of the contaminated blood enquiry. Could have been improved by a wider review of the meaning of Blood from a religious perspective.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jaci

    Eloquently written, with a wonderful balance of science and history. I couldn’t put the book down- except for in those moments where I had to process what I learned and reflect on how intricate and complicated medicine and politics can be

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ashleigh

    This was an incredibly dense overview of the history of blood. From the Middle Ages to the AIDS epidemic - especially highlighting how little to no precautions were taken when collecting blood and the denial of AIDS but it was fascinating.

  22. 5 out of 5

    David Bernstein

    Although now becoming dated, this book is outstanding. Great read and mostly fair to all.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christine Parker

    I have worked in hospital labs so this was a natural choice for me but it does work on several levels of interest.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ronnie Yee

    Exposé of the ethics and business-like model the blood industry worked. How humanity should tread on these issues carefully.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christian

    Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce. Long read but interesting. Worth a summer read

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bill Winett

    Fascinating history of our understanding and use of blood.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Blood is about the history of transfusion medicine and is geared more towards people with a background in medicine or immunohematology (blood bank). I found the beginning half of the book where the author discusses the early history of transfusion medicine to be fascinating. The second half of the book was a bit slow and boring in my opinion. It talks about the policy and politics of transfusion medicine in recent history particularly concerning HIV.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Loren

    The first section of this book – the history of blood transfusion – was fascinating. Long before doctors attempted to infuse the blood from one human to the next, the blood of animals was used to fill the hungry veins of accident victims. Doctors hoped that by transfusing the blood of a gentle calf, they could calm the temper of a hotheaded recipient. Direct human transfusion was held up while public attitudes slowly changed: the practice was initially considered monstrous, no better than cannib The first section of this book – the history of blood transfusion – was fascinating. Long before doctors attempted to infuse the blood from one human to the next, the blood of animals was used to fill the hungry veins of accident victims. Doctors hoped that by transfusing the blood of a gentle calf, they could calm the temper of a hotheaded recipient. Direct human transfusion was held up while public attitudes slowly changed: the practice was initially considered monstrous, no better than cannibalism. As you remember from reading Dracula, Van Helsing grabs any donor that comes within reach to pour blood into Lucy Westenra’s empty veins. When medical statistics were first applied to the process in1873, 56% of blood transfusions ended in death. The discovery of blood types didn’t come until 1900, but it took 30 years for the concept to catch on. Then, of course, the Nazis tried to twist it to uphold their concept of “pure” blood types. Once Starr dispenses with the science of blood, he’s on to the military uses. While I understand that WWII saw the first widespread use of blood transfusions and the collection and distribution systems set the course for our modern systems, the section goes on and on, long past the point where my eyes glazed over. Things picked up when he began to cover the transmission of hepatitis via contaminated blood. Once it became clear to businessmen that there was money to be made collecting up free or inexpensive blood from donors, the almighty dollar trumped safety. (Starr likens the blood business to the petroleum industry and the American Blood Centers to OPEC.) Several studies showed that the odds of a hemophiliac receiving tainted blood and contracting hepatitis were 80% or greater, but that disease was considered less life-threatening than hemophilia. Patients’ questions were brushed aside even as the blood of 10,000 donors was pooled to create the medicine that treated their disease. If even one of those donors was infected, odds were that every dose of medicine from that pool was contaminated. Starr doesn’t draw the conclusion that these practices led to the spread of hepatitis today and the increasing number of drug-resistant strains. He’s too busy jumping into the AIDS epidemic and the politics which condemned 80% of hemophiliacs worldwide to death. Because prison populations were a cheap source of blood, repeated indications that up to 90% of the blood gathered was toxic were ignored. Even after blood banks knew their products were contaminated, they continued to sell them to hemophiliacs they were certain were already infected – rather than destroy the bad stock and lose the income. In the early 80s, I volunteered as a candy striper for the Red Cross blood program. There was no questionnaire for donors. I simply led them to a cot, stood by while their blood drained out, then helped them over to the cookies and juice. I thought I was helping to save lives. Starr’s book makes me wonder if I helped, however peripherally, to spread the disease that’s killed millions. This review comes from Morbid Curiosity #8.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Roberta

    I read the book in three big steps, enjoying each one in a different way. The first part is the historical one, and the funniest one. You'll travel from the French court to the Russian empire with some mad doctors, pioneers who experiment with blood. Disclaimer: I said "mad" in a benevolent way, but please keep in mind you can't apply today ethics, moral standards and hygiene practices to those times. Yes, you'll read about some Frankenstein-like experiment. Yes, you'll read about experimenting o I read the book in three big steps, enjoying each one in a different way. The first part is the historical one, and the funniest one. You'll travel from the French court to the Russian empire with some mad doctors, pioneers who experiment with blood. Disclaimer: I said "mad" in a benevolent way, but please keep in mind you can't apply today ethics, moral standards and hygiene practices to those times. Yes, you'll read about some Frankenstein-like experiment. Yes, you'll read about experimenting on and with animals. You could be grossed out. The second part is the one that went slower for me. Again, this is how I perceived the book and for you the reading could be smoother, as intende by the author. I realized I was less engaged when I was reading about the downing of the modern understanding of blood, mainly from WWI to WWII. As often the case, necessity is a strong motivator. Doctors had to deal with mass losses of blood and tried to come up with new techniques to save their patiences, even if it means putting themselves in danger on a battlefield. We also read about the genesis of blood banks and their competition in the free market. The last part is pretty much devoted to hepatitis and AIDS, focusing on those hemophiliacs around the world whose lives has been vastly improved by clotting factors and then tainted by a new, deadly and devastating disease. Some notable cases of transfusion-induced aids are presented, but the chronicle never appeal to the emotions of the reader. Although reading about Ryan White is emotional per se, Starr focused on telling us how the tainting of blood happened (and, due to the limited knowledge, I think it was not avoidable in the beginning), to the usual quest for profit. Yes, money is pretty much the reason why we let contaminated blood travels freely around the world way too long after the first signs of issues. Starr retold the story of the virus, from GRID to AIDS, and how the people in charged let it spread. Again: we're in 2015, HIV is no longer a short term death sentence, so it's easy to get enraged by some of the things these bureaucrats did or did not. In my experience though, human being tend to underestimate perils that are theoretical, not in-your-face. At the time, when knowledge was scarce, the virus was a statistic in progress. But as soon as more and more data or feedback came in those people were just reckless, and when they were finally brought to court is was too late, and the sentence too mild.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sagan

    The use of blood for transfusions and testing is so commonplace for many people that it's notable mostly in the exceptions - those times when we're afraid of blood-borne pathogens, or a variety of religious beliefs that hold against it. I've had several transfusions after surgery, and I wouldn't describe myself as even hesitant - I trust the safety of the blood. Obviously this wasn't always the case, and indeed, still isn't. Starr traces blood transfusions from its theoretical beginnings, through The use of blood for transfusions and testing is so commonplace for many people that it's notable mostly in the exceptions - those times when we're afraid of blood-borne pathogens, or a variety of religious beliefs that hold against it. I've had several transfusions after surgery, and I wouldn't describe myself as even hesitant - I trust the safety of the blood. Obviously this wasn't always the case, and indeed, still isn't. Starr traces blood transfusions from its theoretical beginnings, through first attempts (with animal blood and before knowledge of blood types), to its heyday in the world wars. All this leads to the crux of his story, which is a detailed explanation of the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, as the heads of blood banks fought to save face at the cost of thousands of lives. Starr explains how the crisis was handled on a global scale, showing the actions and results of companies in the US, Japan, France, and other countries. The first half of this book was fascinating, the last half maddening, and I'll be honest, really shakes my faith in the Red Cross. Although I know the blood supply is safer now, there are always risks, and with the rise of other diseases a book like this is important as a warning and an example. It was incredibly well-researched and in-depth. It was written in 1998; I'd be fascinated to read a follow-up by the author.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.