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"Red Gold: The Epic Story of Blood", A four-hour PBS series airing June 23 and 30. Check local listings.

June 10, 2002|Jane E. Allen

Overview: "Blood ... liquid life ... a powerful medicine all of us can give and receive," goes the introduction to the series based on the Douglas Starr book "Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce." But make no mistake about it, blood is also big business.

How it works: The series begins by examining the myths about blood and its role in religious ritual. By the 1700s, doctors began to decipher the way it circulates, but they still didn't understand its role in illness--as evidenced by the case of the ailing George Washington, who died shortly after excessive bloodletting. A major turning point came when doctors learned to transfuse and preserve blood, which allowed them to save lives on the battlefield. However, the widespread use of transfused blood also fostered the spread of viral diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis. The series' final hour makes the point that although screening has improved, scientists are still trying to develop artificial human blood. And medicine, for all its developments, still depends upon blood donations for surgical patients and victims of trauma.

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