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June 7, 1971

The Gift Relationship: From Human Blood to Social Policy

Author Affiliations

Veterans Administration Hospital Durham, NC

JAMA. 1971;216(10):1649. doi:10.1001/jama.1971.03180360095027

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Professor Titmuss, an eminent English social theorist, believes that man is inherently altruistic and that the duty of government is to create that social and economic climate which best channels man's drive to work together for the common good. In support of this belief, he has written a book about the procurement, distribution, and transfusion of human blood, a medical topic which he employs as an illustrative social and economic microcosm. The conclusion he reaches is foregone: "The voluntary socialized system in Britain is economically, professionally, administratively and qualitatively more efficient than the mixed, commercialized, and individualistic American system" (Titmuss, R.M: "Why Give to Strangers?" Lancet1:123-125, 1971).

As the book was written with a bias, so will it be read with bias. My own bias is that of an American and a blood-banker. I am only too conscious of many deficiencies in the American complex of arrangements—it isn't