Medicine: The Unnecessary Illness

On the surface, Joan and her husband Bob seemed compatible. But biologically, they were not. Bob's blood was Rh-positive, Joan's negative−meaning that she lacked the Rh factor* present in most blood. The difference had no adverse effect on their first child, an Rh-positive boy born in a Louisville hospital two years ago. But their second, born last year, suffered from a condition called erythroblastosis fetalis, which destroyed his red blood cells, leaving him severely anemic with an accumulation of toxic substances in his tiny body. Soon after birth, he died.

The case is not unusual. Twelve percent of all American marriages...

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