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Red Cross under fire over blood
Updated: 2004-03-30 15:28

The Red Cross in Seoul illegally distributed more than 75,000 bags of blood donated by people who in the past had tested positive for hepatitis, and its officials should be penalized, South Korea's state auditor said Sunday.

Nine people who received the blood have tested positive for hepatitis B or C, the Board of Audit and Inspection noted, although it was not clear how they contracted the illness.

Red Cross officials admitted dispensing 76,677 units of blood from such donors, but said all were testing negative for hepatitis and none of the blood had tested positive when it was distributed to hospitals or pharmaceutical firms.

"The blood was clean," Red Cross official Shin Seung-hye said. "If they had problems, they could not have gone out."

The Red Cross said it was unclear whether any of the infections cited by the board could be linked to the blood donations and that at least one of the nine was confirmed to have hepatitis before receiving any blood infusion.

The Red Cross said it would compensate the nine patients, but the state auditor called for unspecified punishment of Red Cross officials for failing to abide by laws that ban circulation of blood donated by anybody who has ever tested positive for hepatitis.

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