Research Group on Blood Transfusion

Blood Transfusion in Pediatrics and Representation of Blood and its Transfer: Perspectives of the Healthcare Staff, Patients and their Families

Blood and blood product transfusion is a common medical act. In Quebec, one person is transfused every 80 seconds and around 80,000 patients receive blood transfusions every year. However, there is a high variability in transfusion standards and practices. Beyond biomedical criteria, anthropology teaches us that, around the world and since the dawn of humanity, blood is invested with a strong symbolic. Depending on the culture and setting, it incarnates life, family ties and consequently, community identity and solidarity, but also death, impurity and defilement. It is also known from the work of Marcel Mauss that each blood donation has a strong symbolic component and is the foundation of social solidarity. For this reason, this clinical anthropological pilot study will attempt to answer the following two questions: What symbolic representations of blood and its transfer impregnate the practices and perceptions of the healthcare staff (physicians and nursing staff) involved in the transfusion process? How do patients and their relatives perceive blood and blood product transfusions?

Main Objectives

To document biomedical knowledge and the representations of blood and its transfer in the transfusion practices of the pediatric staff and in the experience of patients and/or their families in anticipation of a larger scale study on the subject.

Preliminary results

Although common, blood transfusion is not a simple medical act. It carries multiple meanings for recipients and their parents. Caregivers need to consider how blood transfusions are perceived and experienced by patients and their parents, and to better inform them about blood products and their transfusion.

Perspective of the Patients and Their Families
All respondents were favourable to blood transfusion. They trusted the medical staff and consent did not raise any major problems. Most saw blood transfusion as a public good to which the recipient/citizen is entitled.

Perspectives of the Healthcare Staff
Blood does not have any magical/supernatural power.The symbolism of blood has no role in the transfusion decision-making process. However, transfused blood and the blood transfusion decision-making process are not devoid of certain socio-cultural aspects (the relational dynamics with peers and families).

  • Principal Investigator of the Study: Dr Sylvie Fortin
  • Investigator at CHU Sainte-Justine: Dr Sylvie Fortin
  • Source of funding: Fonds de Recherche du Québec - Santé (FRQS)
  • Study Design: Clinical anthropology pilot study
  • Number of Participants: 15 physicians and nurses/15 children and/or their parents


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Updated on 10/8/2014
Created on 10/8/2014
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