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Gift Relationship: From Human Blood to Social Policy by Richard M. Titmuss

Richard M .Titmuss. Expanded and updated edition: Ann Oakley and John Ashton, eds. 1997; 388 pp. $30. The New Press.

The Gift Relationship was published in 1970, with almost immediate policy results. It compared blood donating in Britain (voluntary) and the US (some donated, some bought and sold). Its conclusions?that the voluntary system was superior in efficiency, efficacy, quality, and safety?helped preserve the National Blood Service from Thatcherite privatization. The US government consulted with Titmuss, instituted efforts to stimulate voluntary donation, and mandated labeling of blood from paid donors. Titmuss's most profound conclusions concerned the quality of life and community when people are encouraged to give?often, literally, the gift of life?to strangers. When blood becomes a commodity, he argued, its quality is corrupted (American blood was four times more likely to infect recipients with hepatitis than was British blood).

Titmuss died in 1973, before the AIDS epidemic. This new edition discusses AIDS and the evolution of blood-donation technology, reexamines Titmuss's conclusions, and adds a chapter on donating breast milk. It just hints at more intriguing questions now emerging around organ donorship.


ISBN: 1565844033

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