J Med Ethics 3:166-173 doi:10.1136/jme.3.4.166
  • Research Article

Gifts, exchanges and the political economy of health care. Part I: should blood be bought and sold?


Should blood be bought and sold is in crude terms the question asked and answered by Richard Titmuss in his recent book The Gift Relationship. Dr Raymond Plant, a lecturer in philosophy at Manchester University, analyses Titmuss' arguments in a paper which we are printing in two parts. Titmuss has taken the provision of blood as his example of the gift relationship--and by extension that of health care generally. Dr Plant considers in turn each of Titmuss' arguments that blood should not be a marketable commodity, the moral objections to which seem to be the erosion of freedom and of truth telling, the separation of society through the cash nexus, and its converse that the provision of health care is a means for the integration of society. Dr Plant also examines the views of other commentators on the Titmuss' theory of the value of a 'free' blood transfusion service and other medical care as a means of integration in society, and ends with his promise that in the second part of his paper he will examine Titmuss' principles not in terms of the market but rather as related to the principle of social justice.