The American Red Cross has been under fire in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on two fronts -- its handling of both monetary and blood donations since the national tragedy.
From this vantage point it appears the criticism of the money handling is justified but the complaints about excess blood having to be destroyed are a bit overblown.
The organization quickly saw the folly of its original plan to use roughly half of the so-called Liberty Fund for programs other than victim aid. That misstep cost Red Cross President Bernadine Healy her $450,000-a-year job.
Americans have proven they are capable of incredible generosity but they want to make sure their money is going directly to help people rather than related programs. When they discovered this wasn't the case after the Sept. 11 attacks, an uproar ensued.
Last week the charitable organization issued an apology for its earlier decision to use some of the 9/11 money to build up blood supplies and prepare for future terrorist attacks. It said it will now spend all $543 million in the Liberty Fund on victims' needs.
On the second issue, the Red Cross probably deserves to be granted a little slack. The destruction of some of the donated blood is attributable to the perishable nature of blood and not to mismanagement. Estimates range that between 8 and 10 percent of the blood obtained after Sept. 11 had to be destroyed because it exceeded its 42-day shelf life. The bottom line is that a lot of blood was obtained and is in use at hospitals throughout the nation.
The blood drive, even with some discarded blood, served a good purpose. It probably attracted scores of new donors who discovered that giving blood is an easy way to help out people in need. The next time blood is needed they might be willing donors since they've discovered it's no great hardship.
Also, plasma and other elements are extracted by medical technicians before the blood is discarded.
Potential blood donors should keep in mind that blood is a perishable commodity and there is an ongoing need for blood donors. If more people get in the habit of making periodic blood donations, we'll all be better off.
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