Blood: ‘a Potent Tool’ and Stuff of Controversy’

Anne Roark’s fine article (Feb. 23) describes blood as “a potent tool and the stuff of controversy.” The life and death of Dr. Charles R. Drew amply support that description.

Dr. Drew made a historic contribution to blood research by devising a way to separate plasma from whole blood, paving the way for the creation of the first blood banks. After establishing the Blood for Britain Project in 1940, Dr. Drew was appointed director of the first American Red Cross blood plasma bank.

He resigned, however, when he failed to persuade the American Red Cross that there was no scientific justification for segregating the blood of white donors from that of black donors. That practice continued in Red Cross blood banks for many years before Dr. Drew’s position was finally vindicated.

A myth has developed that Charles Drew, fatally injured in a car accident in North Carolina in 1950, died because he was denied a blood transfusion at the segregated white hospital to which he was taken. The facts do not support that account of his death, but the myth probably persists because it so poignantly captures the ironic devaluation of contributions black leaders like Dr. Drew have made to the health and welfare of the nation.



Los Angeles