Controversies of Umbilical Cord Stem Cell Banking

Controversies of Umbilical Cord Stem Cell Banking

As stem cells become a more common treatment, the debate over the controversy of stem cells becomes an even bigger topic. Stem cells can be harvested in a variety of ways; one of them is through the umbilical cord of a newborn baby. While stem cells do provide hope for a lot of people, there is some controversy over whether or not it is ethical to use umbilical cord stem cells. These stem cells are more effective than adult stem cells because they can become any cell in the body. Addressing this controversy is important in moving research and treatments forward in an ethical manner.

When a baby is born, parents are asked what they would like to do with the umbilical cord blood. Their choices are typically to discard it, along with the placenta, donate to a public cord bank, or pay to store it in a bank for private use. While in the emotional state of just giving birth to a child, many parents find this question overwhelming and are not sure the correct route to choose.


On the surface, many people may think, “Why not store cord blood if it may save my child one day?” While umbilical cord blood does contain the most sought after form of stem cells, it is not quite that simple. Private cord banks charge thousands of dollars to store umbilical cord blood for parents who have had a child. In these cases, many parents have been assured that storing the cord blood will act as “insurance” for their child. If their child ever gets sick and needs stem cells, stem cells coming from their cord blood will be the best that money can buy. While in such a vulnerable and emotional state, many parents do agree to pay to have the blood privately banked. Unfortunately, the reality does not always live up to the promises.

While cord blood does consist of undifferentiated cells, the cells still contain genetic material from the child. This means, if the child is afflicted with a genetic disease, their stem cells may not be able to help since they carry the same disease. In addition, most cord blood only contains enough stem cells to help someone weighing under 100 pounds. By the time a lot of these children would need the stem cells, they are not enough to truly help them.

Many people see privatized cord banks as scams, preying on emotionally vulnerable parents. They believe they exist not to truly help people or offer reassurance, but rather to profit. There is no one single answer as to whether privately storing cord blood is right or wrong for a family. This is also why its not easy to say whether or not they are ethical. Each family needs to be sure they thoroughly understand the pros and cons of privately stored cord blood before deciding to do so. In addition, private cord blood banks should be sure their clients are fully informed on the benefits, and limitations umbilical cord blood provides. An informed decision is the best decision.

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