Medicine: The Blood Business

A shot of blood in the arm may save a life, but a transfusion of the wrong kind of blood can kill as surely as a shot through the head. Doctors cannot estimate how many lives are saved by the 5,000,000 pints of blood that flow each year into the veins of about 2,500,000 U.S. patients; but they believe transfusion accidents cause 3,000 deaths a year.

At an average charge of $25 a pint, the blood business is big business, and in most of the U.S. it has always been a bloody mess. In New...

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