Blood Banking

May 5, 1971

Report Outline
Related Problems of Safety and Supply
Evolution of Blood-Banking Systems
Approaches Toward Solving Blood Needs
Special Focus

Related Problems of Safety and Supply

Drive for Donorse and Critiscism of Blood Buying

The nation's leading blood bankers-the American Red Cross and the 1,300 institutions that belong to the American Association of Blood Banks-are pushing hard to put blood donations on a totally volunteer basis. The primary purpose is not to save money but to assure a sufficient supply of safe, good-quality blood to meet present and expected needs of the population. The drive for more volunteers has been accompanied by rising criticism of the long-standing practice of buying and selling blood for cash. So-called “commercial blood” is said to present more hazards than “volunteer” blood to patients receiving transfusions.

This attack on commercial blood gained new ammunition with the publication early in 1971 of The Gift Relationship, a book by Richard M. Titmuss, a British sociology professor. He compares the American blood-banking system unfavorably with the British on a number of counts: on safety, on sufficiency of supply, on costs, on orderly distribution, on prevention of waste, and on the quality of mercy involved in the giving of blood. Titmuss attributes most of the faults he found in the American system to “the commercialization of blood and donor relationships.”

Attacks on the quality of commercial blood have caused concern in some blood-banking circles because of the possible effect on the total supply, particularly in view of the rising demand for blood in medical practice. Hard data on blood sources for the nation are lacking but a panel of experts from the National Research Council (NRC) has estimated that approximately 15 per cent of the 6.6 million units of blood drawn each year to meet U.S. needs comes from individuals who receive pay for it in cash. According to Titmuss, at least one-third of all blood donations in the United States in 1965–67 were cash deals; by his reckoning, and standards, only 9 per cent was given outright, that is without some inducement or benefit to the giver.

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