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Red Cross Under Fire
September 17, 2003

FDA inspectors found more than 200 safety violations by the Red Cross. And as CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports, many of the violations were offenses the Red Cross has repeatedly been ordered to fix.

The Red Cross shipped infected blood, failed to screen out risky donors, even some who admitted having HIV, and lost track of more than a thousand units, including small amounts infected with HIV or Hepatitis C. And some Red Cross employees were told to skip safety steps or falsify records to allow infected blood to be released.

Despite years of violations, the Red Cross has insisted things can't be that bad because not many people are getting sick from transfusions.

But the new FDA report finds the Red Cross failed to adequately investigate infections to even determine if bad blood was to blame.

One man got deadly hepatitis C from a transfusion with infected Red Cross blood - but only found out after he forced an investigation. He told CBS News the Red Cross couldn't have cared less about what went wrong.

When he notified the Red Cross that he had gotten hepatitis C from their blood, the response was apathetic.

"They told me that certain publications I could read about hepatitis C," he says.

Even Red Cross workers told FDA inspectors there's a "culture to hide problems" meaning they'd been instructed to "falsify documents ... to hide mistakes" and feared retaliation if they reported problems.

In response to the latest FDA findings, the Red Cross says it "understands more work needs to be done to further strengthen our processes" and they're committed to working with the FDA "to enhance our systems." The Red Cross has also just beefed up its work force on quality, and promises to improve employee training.

But some critics say the charity has broken repeated promises to fix the blood supply and argue it's time for a radical change.

"The FDA needs to, if not take over, heavily oversee a re-design of the blood system. And in some cases they need to start from scratch," Paul Cololery, editor in chief of Non-Profit Times tells Attkisson.

That's something the government apparently isn't willing to take on, at least not now. Critics say the Red Cross is counting on the fact that even if it's not managing the blood supply the way it should be - nobody else is eager to have the job.




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