Authored by Phil Dotree in Medical Science
Published on 12-15-2009
One of the most debated health issues in our times is the use of stem cells. From this debate, many other debates have risen, including arguments on the use and viability of cord blood.
Umbilical cord blood is exactly what it sounds like; blood taken from the umbilical cord after a child’s birth. It contains numerous stem cells that may be extremely useful in treating conditions later in life. Many doctors support the collection and storage of cord blood. There is no possibility of harm to the baby, and cord blood can be collected quite easily. In most cases, cord blood is saved in a public storage system. This varies depending on the country of birth.
The biggest issue with the practice of saving cord blood is the option of privatization. Many private companies have already established cord blood banks. These institutions claim to provide storage services of cord blood for consumer use. People pay for accounts with the banks and store cord blood there when infants are born. The process is sometimes expensive, costing hundreds of dollars per year.
The issue that many governments have is that the companies might be misleading consumers. The possibility of a consumer actually needing stored cord blood is fairly low. This may be misrepresented by cord blood blanks. Critics claim that cord blood blanks prey on consumer fears of sickness. They may also overstate the usefulness of the blood, for instance in implying that the blood can fix serious genetic conditions. Some genetic conditions such as leukemia cannot be remedied with cord blood since it contains the same genetic defects as the blood in a person’s body.
Private cord blood banks may also prevent cord blood from being saved for general public use. Many people cannot afford private storage, yet benefit greatly from publicly stored cord blood. In fact, the more donors that public banks have, the better off the general population. Cord blood has a much better chance of saving a life in a public system of storage. It’s therefore occasionally argued that private cord blood storage is unethical.
Proponents of the system argue that if cord blood is needed, it’s most helpful to use cord blood from one’s own body. It makes sense to be able to save the blood for your infant, despite the cost, rather than putting that blood into a public system. They argue that people have rights to their own bodies. Protecting one’s children through private cord blood storage is in no way a violation of any ethics or morality.
Currently, new parents that decide to save their infant’s umbilical cord blood have both private and public options for storage. This may change over time, though, if governments oppose the operation of private blood blanks. It’s a difficult ethical question for many new parents who want healthy, happy lives for their newborns.
Where do you stand on the issue? Do you think that private cord blood banks should be legal? Post your thoughts in the comments section below this article.