The Gift Relationship

From Human Blood to Social Policy

An updated edition of the classic study of blood donating that revolutionized thinking about the organization of medical care

“The force and elegance of a novel and the immediacy of an emergency news bulletin.” —The New York Times

Richard M. Titmuss’s The Gift Relationship has long been acknowledged as one of the classic texts on social policy. Honored by the New York Times as one of the ten most important books of the year when it first appeared in 1970, Titmuss’s The Gift Relationship is even more topical now in an age of AIDS and changing health care policy. A seemingly straightforward comparative study of blood donating in the United States and Britain, the book elegantly raises profound economic, political, and philosophical questions. Titmuss contrasts the British system of reliance on voluntary donors to the American one in which the blood supply is largely in the hands of for-profit enterprises and shows how a nonmarket system based on altruism is more effective than one that treats human blood as another commodity.

This updated edition contains the original text along with new chapters that:

  • consider the relevance of Titmuss’s arguments to the AIDS and current health care crises;
  • outline recent developments in blood donation and transfusion systems;
  • examine the systems for human milk donation; and
  • assess the response to the original edition and make the case for its continuing relevance today.

At a time when health and welfare systems are under sustained attack from many quarters, this new edition of The Gift Relationship is essential reading for everyone interested in social policy and the future of our society.


“A first-class study . . . moving from the relationship between blood donor and blood recipient to that between patient and physician, and thence to the very foundation of human societies.”
The Washington Post

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