General Question

augustlan's avatar

Is blood from a fresh corpse viable for use in transfusions?

Asked by augustlan (46604 points ) April 20th, 2012

If so, and blood is routinely drained from a body in preparation for burial, why not drain it earlier, at the hospital immediately after death? It seems like that could make a pretty big dent in the available blood supply. Would it work? What are some possible obstacles in this proposal?

Also, if one is an organ donor, do the doctors ‘harvest’ and use the blood as well as the organs?

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13 Answers

jca's avatar

I would think those cells start dying immediately, and therefore the blood wouldn’t be good. Cells need oxygen and dead bodies are not providing oxygen.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

My guess would be what caused the death and the treatments tried to prevent it would make the blood unsafe. Also, ewww Vampire Lady.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, I think @jca might be correct. Blood cells need oxygen and once death occurs all systems of the body begin their decaying process, I imagine blood cells die very quickly, lwithout oxygen like brain cells.
Oooh, @Adirondackwannabe That’s a good point as well, if the patient is loaded with Demerol or other drugs it would render the blood tainted for transfusion.

tedibear's avatar

I had this discussion elsewhere with someone who has some medical knowledge. She said essentially what @jca and @Adirondackwannabe said. We were talking about organ donation and I said that I wanted everything viable taken from me when I died. That brought us to the blood discussion.

CWOTUS's avatar

Actually, I think that an even bigger problem with the idea is that the blood simply stops flowing as soon as the heart stops beating. If you could find an effective (and not expensive) way to harvest the blood from a fresh corpse, say an accident victim who expired upon arrival at a hospital, for example, then the blood would be no less viable than any other pint of blood taken from a live donor. But it’s just not going to come out on its own at that point.

jca's avatar

@CWOTUS: I don’t think the blood would be any good. It’s not just a liquid, it’s a living thing.

marinelife's avatar

It could be taken from a brain dead person as part of organ transplantation.

CWOTUS's avatar

Not really ‘living’ the way we typically think of it, @jca. After all, blood taken from a donor winds up in a plastic bag in a refrigerator for indefinite storage. Anything that we usually think of as ‘living’ would be killed by that process. Blood from a corpse – right after death, at least, before decay and putrefaction processes start – should be no different, (assuming no drugs or disease were present).

Actually, that’s another drawback.

You couldn’t interview the dead person about his sexual history, disease history, etc. The blood so taken – even if were biologically no different from the blood taken from my arm right now – would open the agency to all kinds of liability issues.

filmfann's avatar

Blood is routinely collected and stored at blood banks, so I don’t think that would be an issue. Certainly retrieving the blood, plus the medicines and/or diseases in the blood might make it less than desirable.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

If a regular blood donor whose health status was well know who died of traumatic brain injury and who was kept on life support to preserve the victims organs for potential donation en route to hospital might theoretically be a source of 8 or 9 litres of healthy blood. This would be an exceptional situation. The blood collection system is not set up to recover blood from recently diseased people.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Two things:
A) there are two stages of death…clinical and biological…
B) blood is a tissue…

During the clinical stage, a person has stopped breathing. This results in oxygen not entering the body which eventually results in death of body tissues and cardiac arrest. Biological death is much more severe. It is when brain cells die because of lack of oxygen (hypoxia). Biological death follows clinical death.

The interesting thing is, a person can be revived if you respond to clinical death early enough, and performing proper rescue techniques render the best chance of preventing biological death from taking place. I also know that the body temperature spikes just right before death…and this is due to Microorganisms rapidly taking over thus, raising the temperature – this is probably the first stage of the decomposition process.

To be able to take blood would be a matter of timing…and quite unpredictable…and probably unethical b/c even in the clinical stage, a person may still be revived.

(I love the name of this source.) Coffin Talk – A message board for funeral directors, mortuary science students, and those with a morbid curiosity.

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