Forum: Make cord blood donation an opt-out scheme

A sample packet of cryogenically frozen cord blood at the Singapore Cord Blood Bank.
A sample packet of cryogenically frozen cord blood at the Singapore Cord Blood Bank.PHOTO: ST FILE

I count myself fortunate to have heard about umbilical cord blood donation and its benefits when I was pregnant. I signed up to donate both my daughters' cord blood, and am curious as to why Singapore does not practise opt-out cord blood donation.

Cord blood is a very good source of stem cells, which can be used in the treatment of blood disorders, cancers, and immune and genetic diseases.

Cord blood is collected after the delivery of a baby. The collection is non-invasive and painless for both mother and baby.

In Singapore hospitals, cord blood is normally discarded with the umbilical cord after it is clamped and cut. Unless the mother has made an earlier arrangement to have it donated to the Singapore Cord Blood Bank (SCBB) or stored in a private bank, the cord blood is thrown away.

Public banking optimises the chance of a match for treatment. There is no charge to donors for the collection and banking of cord blood in SCBB, and SCBB raises the funds required for the processing and cryopreservation of the donated cord blood.

Since there are no ethical issues with the collection and donation of cord blood, can the authorities consider legislation to make cord blood donation compulsory for all mothers who do not opt out?

It could be similar to the Human Organ Transplant Act, which covers all Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 21 years and above without a mental disorder, but allows them to opt out.

Parents who wish to have their baby's cord blood stored in a private bank can simply opt out of donation.

Eileen Cher

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2020, with the headline 'Make cord blood donation an opt-out scheme'. Print Edition | Subscribe