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I understand that there are personal health benefits attached to the process of blood transfusion. Yet it's considered as an act of charity. Is it moral if one donates blood only out of obligation to save some stranger's life or just for charity? I mean, someday even objectivists may need blood.

asked Feb 19 '11 at 11:48

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edited Feb 19 '11 at 17:29

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Greg Perkins ♦♦

I donate for a very selfish and I think rational reason. I am O Negative - a rare bloodtype that is a universal donor but can only receive O Negative. I want to be sure there is some O Negative blood on hand in case I need it.

(Feb 24 '11 at 19:53) KenO KenO's gravatar image

Living selfishly does not imply living in a self aggrandizing manner and not interacting with other members of society in a mutually beneficial manner. Donating blood is a very clear example of an action that benefits our society. This makes possible the presence of blood for management of conditions in which no other treatment will suffice. One may be a donor for a number of years and then find oneself on the receiving end of that cycle. My own experience was of donating close to two gallons over a number of years. Two years ago, I suffered a ruptured spleen and my life was saved in part through the transfusion of seven units of blood. I see nothing charitable in either the donating or the receiving of that blood. It is a very selfish action to donate blood in order to help insure that it will be available should you need it someday.

answered Feb 19 '11 at 22:57

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ethwc ♦

Donating blood is something that most immediately and directly benefits others, but brings other selfish benefits to the donator. It's similar to other acts of kindness and goodwill that help a community or society become more benevolent and life-affirming for everyone.

As for donating blood, it does involve more investment of time and inconvenience than other more simple acts of goodwill. But in return a donator earns blood "credits" from the Red Cross (in the USA, probably in other countries too). If you ever need a blood transfusion yourself it's nice to know you've already made that "deposit" even if it won't be your exact blood. In most cases this is a psychological or emotional payment to the donator. That's why I donate blood, although I admit I don't do it nearly as often as I could because there's usually something else I judge more urgent or higher value for me to do with that hour of the day. And the donator has to be healthy and well-nourished enough so the donation process doesn't create more risks that outweigh the perceived benefits (another reason I don't do it as often as I would like to).

If someone donates blood out of a sense of duty to other unknown strangers, that would be the wrong reason by Objectivist standards, even though the act itself bring benefits. I believe there are selfish, moral reasons to donate blood which I tried to explain above.

answered Feb 19 '11 at 21:04

QEDbyBrett's gravatar image

QEDbyBrett ♦

The answer to this question would be obvious if there were private organizations willing to compensate blood donors. The amount of blood donated, its cost to recipients, the reward to donors would all be governed by supply and demand. Because blood is actually an abundant substance (all of us have extra), it would wind up being a relatively inexpensive commodity and both donors and recipients would be better off for such a system.

Unfortunately, our government does not act in accordance with the idea that our bodies and their parts are our own individual property. Instead we have a mess that costs lives and winds up relying on a sense of duty from the donors to accomplish its goals.

That said, there is nothing wrong with cleaning up the beaches, running a free clinic, setting up a college scholarship or donating blood if it fulfills a value for you. I am hoping for the day when I can set up a scholarship for my alma mater, Caltech, which offered me a full ride to attend when that would have been my only option.

answered Feb 25 '11 at 12:58

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Kate Yoak ♦

The problem with paid donors for blood was long ago found to be in its safety. Persons willing to donate were, too frequently, willing to lie about health conditions making them unsafe donors. I admit that my first several donations were in exchange for money that was well received at the time. However, blood born diseases are not rare and are quite common in those most likely to lie about their lifestyle in order to receive some money. I should also point out that there is a rather large cost incurred in preparation of blood that would not be lowered in event of paid donors.

(Feb 25 '11 at 18:07) ethwc ♦ ethwc's gravatar image

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Asked: Feb 19 '11 at 11:48

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Last updated: Feb 25 '11 at 18:07