In a recent article in the Star, a pregnant woman is wondering if she should pay $3,000 to keep her soon-to-be-born child’s umbilical cord blood. Jennifer Stewart is looking for comments and suggestions from her readership, which prompted this post here.
Umbilical cord blood has been used as a incredibly fruitful source of ethical stem cells and has resulted in major advances in medicine including sucessful treatments of leukemia, immune disorders and other diseases. From a Christian perspective, what is most encouraging about the science of this relatively new treatment is that is effective and ethical, unlike embryonic stem cell research.
Embryonic stem cells are literally harvested from 8 to 14 day-old human beings (that is 8 to 14 days from conception). These embryos are usually left-over from in-vitro fertilization treatments. The researcher cuts open the embryo, removes the stem cells from the centre of the embryo for his research and discards the rest of the embryo. The stem cells would have grown and developed into the functioning organs of the child. In effect, embryonic stem cell research is organ harvesting.
But what really gets my goat is that, to date, there has not been a single effective treatment derived from embryonic stem cells. In fact, all treatments using these types of stem cells have resulted in rejection from the host or tumors and other such scary things. All of the sucesses in stem cell research (and there have been many!) are because of treatments using ethical stems cells, that is, stem cells collected from umbilical cord blood or from consenting adults (they can be found in our skin, muscles and even hair!).
So would I recommend that Jennifer pay $3,000 to keep her child’s umbilical cord blood? She might not have to. She could donate it to Canadian Blood Services too, which makes the cord blood available to whomever needs it. And I think this is a wonderful way that Christians can promote pro-life scientific research that results in real cures. The next time you have a child, seriously consider donating the umbilical cord to CBS – it could save a life! For a thorough analysis of this issue and for more information, see Mark’s article here.