Cord Blood: What Are The Ethical Considerations? (Continued)

The controversy surrounding cord blood banking has little to do with the concept of stem cell use (although it can be suggested that the fact that stem cells are part of the topic adds to the confusion), but has to do with the concept of banking cord blood for future use.

There are two types of cord blood storage: Public Cord Blood Banks and Private Cord Blood Banks.  As their names suggest, public banks offer the opportunity for parents to donate their child's cord blood to a public repository, accessible for all those in need and based upon a matching system much like organ transplant procedures operate under.  Public cord banks are non profit organizations, which do not charge storage fees, and furthermore cannot guarantee that a donor will have access to his or her cord blood sample for later use.

Private banks operate as for profit organizations, charging collection and storage fees which can amount to thousands of dollars per donor. In addition to these fees, there can also be surcharges for other services added on to the initial amount making for higher monthly payments.  

The ethical controversy involving cord blood banks is mostly associated with private banks.  It has been suggested that private cord blood banks, while certainly providing a service akin to an insurance policy to new parents, are in some ways aggressively marketing themselves to new parents as a "must-have" program to ensure the health and well being of their children. This is not the case, and it should be clearly pointed out that parents are under no obligation to use private banks as a means to ensure that they are providing their child with the necessities of life.

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