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What Are the Legal and Ethical Aspects of Cord Blood Banking?

There is currently a battle being waged in the medical field – between the people who believe cord blood banking can have a significant, substantial, and beneficial impact on society, and the people who believe cord blood banking is posing an Orwellian risk that could put the lives of millions at risk. While cord blood banking as a procedure is still in its nascence and only time will tell its long-term impact, there are many issues to consider – in terms of legality and ethics – before it becomes a more widely accepted practice. So, what are some of the legal and ethical aspects of cord blood banking?

Firstly, the moral and ethical issues lie in the fact that because the technology is fairly new, and most cord blood banking centers have only been open for a short while, that private facilities unfairly target new parents in a particularly susceptible and vulnerable time. The argument – by proponents against cord blood banking – is that these facilities are using pervasive marketing materials that are making new parents feel guilty for not donating their child’s stem cells and storing their cord blood. However, creating an image of this “attack” by greedy stem cell industrialists is usually a method by defectors to stymie the growth of stem cell research.

Next, in terms of legality, there is the issue of an obstetrician or midwife’s responsibility at the time a mother is giving birth to her child. What if instead of properly caring for the mother and child, the doctor, midwife, or surrounding nurses are too focused on the complicated task of collecting samples of cord blood for storage. Typically the process of collecting the cord blood is extensive and must be done carefully and directly after birth – in order to collect the freshest sample from the placenta, have it on ice and shipped to the cord blood-banking center. Legal experts say that this could pose a risk for the hospital in the instance that the mother or baby is in distress.

Another big ethical risk that many private cord blood banking centers pose is if they will actually be in business 10 years, 20 years down the line? Experts argue that cord blood banking could simply be a capitalist attempt to take advantage of consumers – that they are collecting samples and heaps of cash and don’t really foresee that they will truly be around in the future when the cord blood is actually needed. Then other questions arise, like where will a sample go if a cord blood banking center closes its doors?

Lastly, the truth of the matter is that people who believe in cord blood banking far outweigh the opponents who believe the technology still needs a few more years of testing and government regulation. You can take the invention of the distribution of electricity as an example – most people in the beginning believed that it was witchcraft and denounced Edison as a quack. At the end of the day, cord blood banking has the power to cure a number of incurable diseases, like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson’s. Isn’t it worth the risks, legal hurdles, and ethical quandaries if we can save a few million lives, or more?

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