So you’ve decided to donate your child’s cord blood stem cells. Before you sign on the dotted line, though, know just what type of public cord blood bank you are donating to. Though they may look the same, there are actually two types of public cord blood banks: for profit and not-for-profit.
Not-for-Profit Public Banks
A not-for-profit cord blood bank is precisely that – one that is not looking to make money. These types of banks are usually affiliated with a national registry and look to provide stem cells to patients in need. Once the cord blood donation has been made, the information about the donation is entered into a database, which can then be searched by health care professionals throughout the state or country. This helps to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to locate a perfect match when a transplant is needed.
Unlike private cord blood storage, placing your child’s cord blood in this type of bank means that the first person who needs those stem cells will get them. Your child’s umbilical cord stem cells are not reserved for just you and your family. Although you have forfeited ownership of the cord blood, you may still be able to use them should the need arise and the stem cells are still available.
Because this type of bank is not looking to make a profit, you will not be charged a fee for processing and storing the cord blood. However, you will need to undergo rigorous screening tests, which could be costly, before you can donate the cord blood. Once donated, the cord blood will undergo further testing to ensure it is free of disease or illness. If the cord blood is found to be unsuitable for transplant, the bank will likely sell the stem cells to research but their asking price will only be enough to cover their costs.
For Profit Banks
At a glance, for profit cord blood banks appear similar to not-for-profit banks. For profit banks accept cord blood donations from the public and are happy to cover the cost of processing and any storage fees that may be incurred. However, unlike not-for-profit banks, when you donate to a for profit bank, your cord blood information is not entered into a database or made available to patients in need.
Instead, these banks sell your cord blood stem cells to medical laboratories for testing and research. Since these banks are looking to make money, the highest bidder is the one that is able to buy the stem cells. Although the banks do store the blood for a period of time, it is usually a matter of weeks between collection of the cord blood and the time it is sold.
It is important to note, though, that this practice isn’t allowed everywhere. While the United States currently allows researchers to buy cord blood stem cells, in Europe this is not allowed.
So, does this make it wrong to donate your cord blood stem cells to a for profit bank? Not necessarily. It is up to you and your partner whether you would like your child’s stem cells to help people directly or help people eventually by being used in research.
The Bottom Line
Before you sign a contract with a public bank, make sure you’ve read the fine print and know what type of bank you are dealing with. Feel free to ask the bank about any questions you may have before you sign. Also, keep in mind that many public banks, particularly not-for-profit banks, require you to sign up for their services at least 90 days before your due date.
When you are satisfied that you know enough about how your stem cells will be used and are comfortable with the public bank you have chosen, then sign that contract.