Monday, April 18, 2005

Usurpation of identity

A recent letter to the editor in Transfusion caught my eye:
Zimmermann R, J, Weisbach V, Eckstein R. ABO discrepancy by usurpation of identity Transfusion 2005 Mar; 45(3):454.

Over the years I have seen 2 cases of usurpation of identity, both while working in the centralized transfusion service of the Canadian Red Cross (now Canadian Blood Services) in Winnipeg, Canada. For U.S. readers, Winnipeg's blood system is similar to that of the Puget Sound Blood Center - a combined blood center/transfusion service, with a centralized crossmatch facility serving the city of Winnipeg and smaller sites across the province.

In one case, an unconscious young man was admitted to the emergency department of a local hospital following a car accident. A blood group done on his current sample was different than the historical record. It turned out that he was carrying his friend's identity card in order to meet the legal age of drinking alcohol.

The second case involved a young women who was having a therapeutic abortion. Similarly, her current blood group differed from her historical record. Once questioned, she admitted to passing herself off as her friend, to the point of deceiving a physician. The reason for the deception was social, not financial, since Canada, like most of the developed world, has universal healthcare.

In both instances, the discrepancy would not have been caught were it not for the record. No harm would have come to the perpetrators since they would have received blood of the correct groups, based on their current typing results. In the future, however, such deception might have consequences for their friends, should they ever require blood products based on historical records alone.

In the USA where many people lack health insurance, such deception may be more widespread.

Regardless, although records play a major role in preventing misidentification, both cases illustrate the importance of not relying on records.

If you have first-hand knowledge of similar cases of identity theft in patients requiring transfusion, please e-mail me. Many thanks!

Cheers, Pat

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