Public Cord Blood Banking

August 10, 2010

In 2009, I began working on legislation to enhance awareness of umbilical cord blood banking in Connecticut. The legislation we passed that year required doctors to inform pregnant women about their options for cord blood banking.

Later that year, I heard from several leading doctors in the field of cord blood banking who were strong supporters of public cord blood banks – a cheaper and potentially more beneficial option than private banking. These doctors explained the many benefits of public banks and are working diligently to create a public banking option here in Connecticut.

Public banks are free and accessible to everyone in need of a life-saving stem cell transplant, and would provide a great service to Connecticut residents. Although the publically banked cord blood is not stored for just the baby and his or her family members, privately stored blood is very rarely used since very few children develop cancers that could be treated with their own stem cells and the blood is also not an automatic match for family members. Public cord blood banking on the other hand creates a wide range of potential donor matches.

Donating a baby’s umbilical cord blood seems like something every parent should do, but it is not quite that easy. There are only a small number of public banks around the country, and for many parents, public banking is not an option. These types of banks are non-profit and it costs a substantial amount of money to store just a single unit of cord blood. Thus, funding is a major problem, and right now public cord blood banking is available primarily at large metropolitan hospitals.

There are many parents who want to donate their child’s cord blood but cannot, so to resolve this problem the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee created a task force to study the issue. The Connecticut Cord Blood Banking Task Force began meeting in April of this year. Their job is to evaluate the three options for public cord blood banking in Connecticut, then prepare a report for the General Assembly later this fall. The three options they will be evaluating are 1) a multi-state consortium bank, 2) a contract between the state and public bank, and 3) a contract between the state and a private bank.

The task force will determine the requirements of each option and what amount of support will be necessary from the state. Their final task is to work with me to create legislation to propose during the 2011 legislative session that will include specific recommendations on how to establish and fund a program of public donation and collection with Connecticut.

The task force has a big job ahead of them, but they are already making strong progress. We have national leaders in cord blood banking serving on our task force and I am confident in their ability to craft a comprehensive report that will be of great help in establishing public cord blood banking in Connecticut.