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Last Best Gifts: Altruism and the Market for Human Blood and Organs

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0226322377
ISBN-10: 0226322378
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Editorial Reviews


"In Last Best Gifts, Kieran Healy offers a timely, sophisticated, and original analysis of the complex organizational terrain of blood and organ donation. In doing so, he unpacks the crucial role that organizations and institutions play in creating the contexts for, and the meanings of, giving. His analysis suggests that the relationship between gifts and commodities, between giving and selling, is more complex than many scholars acknowledge." - Wendy Espeland, Northwestern University"

From the Inside Flap

More than any other altruistic gesture, blood and organ donation exemplifies the true spirit of self-sacrifice. Donors literally give of themselves for no reward so that the life of an individual—often anonymous—may be spared. But as the demand for blood and organs has grown, the value of a system that depends solely on gifts has been called into question, and the possibility has surfaced that donors might be supplemented or replaced by paid suppliers.
            Last Best Gifts offers a fresh perspective on this ethical dilemma by examining the social organization of blood and organ donation in Europe and the United States. Gifts of blood and organs are not given everywhere in the same way or to the same extent—contrasts that allow Kieran Healy to uncover the pivotal role that institutions play in fashioning the contexts for donations. Procurement organizations, he shows, sustain altruism by providing opportunities to give and by producing public accounts of what giving means. In the end, Healy suggests, successful systems rest on the fairness of the exchange, rather than the purity of a donor’s altruism or the size of a financial incentive.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226322378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226322377
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,358,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Eszter Hargittai on January 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kieran Healy does an excellent job of showing how blood and organ donation is not simply a question of altruism, a belief held by many. The author shows, in a convincing manner, that the social organization of organ procurement has significant effects on the success rate of the different establishments charged with collecting donations. Organ donation is an incredibly sensitive subject - after all, one person's life depends on another's death - so it is wrong to ignore the social and cultural context in which decisions will be made about it. A talented writer, Kieran Healy tells a fascinating story of an important subject that has seen increasing press coverage, but never with the necessary level of careful considersation that is presented in this book.

As a sidenote, the book's layout is very classy. Some books are hard to read because of annoying font and confusing layout. This one is a pleasure to pick up not only thanks to its content, but also the careful design.

Disclosure: I went to graduate school with the author and followed the development of his work in this domain. This book is a wonderful product of his thinking and research on this topic over the years.
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