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Blood Money

The Story of Life, Death, and Profit Inside America's Blood Industry

About The Book

A “haunting” (Anne Helen Petersen, author of Can’t Even) and deeply personal investigation of an underground for-profit medical industry and the American underclass it drains for blood and profit.

Journalist Kathleen McLaughlin knew she’d found a treatment that worked on her rare autoimmune disorder. She had no idea it had been drawn from the veins of America’s most vulnerable.

So begins McLaughlin’s ten-year investigation researching and reporting on the $20-billion-a year business she found at the other end of her medication, revealing a “vampiric real-life story of modern-day greed” (Leah Sottile, host of Bundyville). Assigned to work in China, where the plasma supply had been rocked by numerous scandals, McLaughlin hid American plasma in her luggage during trips between the two countries. And when she was warned by a Chinese researcher of troubling echoes between America’s domestic plasma supply chain and the one she’d seen spin out into chaos in China, she knew she had to dig deeper.

Blood Money shares McLaughlin’s decade-long mission to learn the full story of where her medicine comes from. She travels the United States in search of the truth about human blood plasma and learns that twenty million Americans each year sell their plasma for profit—a human-derived commodity extracted inside our borders to be processed and packaged for retail across the globe. She investigates the thin evidence pharmaceutical companies have used to push plasma as a wonder drug for everything from COVID-19 to wrinkled skin. And she unearths an American economic crisis hidden in plain sight: single mothers, college students, laid-off Rust Belt auto workers, and a booming blood market at America’s southern border, where collection agencies target Mexican citizens willing to cross over and sell their plasma for substandard pay.

This “captivating and anguished exposé” (Publishers Weekly) weaves together McLaughlin’s personal battle to overcome illness while also facing her own complicity in this wheel of exploitation with an electrifying portrait of big business run amok.

About The Author

Photograph by Rio Chantel

Kathleen McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist who reports and writes about the consequences of economic inequality around the world. A frequent contributor to The Washington Post and The Guardian, McLaughlin’s reporting has also appeared in The New York Times, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, The Economist, NPR, and more. She is a former Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT and has won multiple awards for her reporting on labor in China. Blood Money is her first book.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria/One Signal Publishers (February 28, 2023)
  • Length: 240 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982171988

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Raves and Reviews

"A disturbing, painful story that smoothly combines the personal and the universal." Kirkus (starred review)

“McLaughlin — by all means a modern-day Barbara Ehrenreich — plunges into the world of blood plasma donation to weave together a vampiric real-life story of modern-day greed." —Leah Sottile, host of Bundyville and author of When the Moon Turns to Blood

"Blending memoir and reportage, journalist McLaughlin debuts with a disturbing look at the predatory nature of the blood plasma industry. A captivating and anguished exposé." —Publishers Weekly

"Vampires walk among us, and Kathleen McLaughlin is unafraid to shine a torchlight on their sins. She illuminates the ways for-profit blood plasma firms feed on the most vulnerable—the poor, the forgotten, the oppressed—in the name of big medicine, big tech, and big business, squeezing literal blood money out of those who have already given too much."." —Kim Kelly, author of Fight Like Hell

"From AIDS-ravaged villages in China to mall plasma centers in the United States, Kathleen McLaughlin traces the veins of a worldwide blood industry that draws from the desperate and needy to create life-saving products. This sharp and compassionate book will make you see globalization, and healthcare, in a whole new light." —James Palmer, author of The Death of Mao and The Bloody White Baron

"Illuminating. . . keenly illustrated"The New Republic

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