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Altruism, blood donation and public policy: a reply to Keown.
  1. H V McLachlan
  1. Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland.


    This is a continuation of and a development of a debate between John Keown and me. The issue discussed is whether, in Britain, an unpaid system of blood donation promotes and is justified by its promotion of altruism. Doubt is cast on the notions that public policies can, and, if they can, that they should, be aimed at the promotion and expression of altruism rather than of self-interest, especially that of a mercenary sort. Reflections upon President Kennedy's proposition, introduced into the debate by Keown, that we should ask not what our country can do for us but what we can do for our country is pivotal to this casting of doubt. A case is made for suggesting that advocacy along the lines which Keown presents of an exclusive reliance on a voluntary, unpaid system of blood donation encourages inappropriate attitudes towards the provision of health care. Perhaps, it is suggested, and the suggestion represents, on my part, a change of mind as a consequence of the debate, a dual system of blood provision might be preferable.

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