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Hybrid practices in cord blood banking. Rethinking the commodification of human tissues in the bioeconomy

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The STS and bioethical literature on umbilical cord blood (UCB) banking nowadays discusses the field as divided into opposite institutional arrangements, public versus private banking. Public banks represent a model-sharing economy; private banks represent a market economy that capitalizes hopes and tissues, and new hybrid forms that are emerging. We challenge that this distinction is analytically valuable for understanding the various forms of marketization, commodification and biovalue production that mark the UCB economy. Our analysis of current UCB banking practices, especially hybrid ones, and their inherent visions of the future, shows that hybrid UCB banking criss-crosses the different economic models and concepts of commodification. The private, public, hybrid distinction is thus inadequate for a critical analysis of the complex UCB bioeconomies. Drawing on the perspective of social welfare systems analysis, however, the tripartite distinction emphasizes an important ethical and biopolitical commitment to equality in current and future health care.
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Keywords: bioeconomy; biopolitics; commodification; hybrid biobanking; stem cells; umbilical cord blood

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

Publication date: July 2, 2016

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