Is your health care provider selling your blood (or anything else) for profit?

I remember when my son was born, I was so curious that I asked to see my placenta. The doctors and nurses refused. They told me it was disposed of. Keep in mind this was minutes after his birth - not hours.

Those of you that know me, know my friend John. John is a red-headed giant. He is also a retired Army officer with a rare blood disease, Alpha One, that is destroying his lungs. He has to have an infusion each Wednesday at a cost of $6000. The disease is rare and the medicine is very expensive. The hospital in his home town calls him each Wednesday morning, to make sure he’s going to be there, before they mix the medicine.

In the process of investigating John’s disease, the doctors found that his body makes too much blood. Isn’t that interesting?

Once a month on his Wednesday infusion day, the hospital removes a pint or two of blood. For a while they were doing this AFTER the infusion. One day, John asked them if it wouldn’t be smarter to remove the blood BEFORE the infusion so it didn’t remove the medicine they had just infused him with. After that, the nurses removed the blood first. No one had thought of that.

One day John asked what the hospital did with his pint or two of blood they removed. Through quite a few questions, he found out the hospital was sending his blood to a specialist in New England – and charging this specialist $500 to “handle the shipping”. $500. Must have been a pretty special shipping container.

John was surprised they hadn’t asked him for his permission. Wasn’t it his blood after all? It turns out that since they were supposed to be burning it with all the other bio-hazards, it was considered trash and they could do what they wanted with it – until John asked what they were doing with it. He asked them to stop sending/selling his blood to the specialist in New England.

Some of you may think that in the name of science he should continue sending his blood. Some scientific breakthrough may occur that could save others with this same rare disease. I would more strongly agree – if the hospital had simply asked John’s permission. The blood was and is John’s very personal property – not the hospital’s. His permission should have been granted before anything was done with his blood – let alone selling it for a profit.

After hearing this, I wonder what happened to my son’s placenta. Was it sold for research? Was it truly destroyed? The curious reaction from the doctors and nurses led me to believe that it wasn’t simply destroyed.

It’s important to ask questions – and find truthful answers. The business of medicine is changing and it needs to change.