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Contested expectations: the cord blood economy in South Korea

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Stem cells from umbilical cord blood are now being actively used in transplants, as well as for a wide range of other medical, research, therapeutic, and commercial purposes. In this incipient stage of stem cell treatments and products, however, expectations about the benefits, use, and distribution of cord blood stem cells vary significantly among relevant companies, scientists, donors, patients, and governments. Focusing on the use of cord blood in South Korea, this paper examines the contested expectations that exist among the parties involved with the donation and use of cord blood, and how the distribution of cord blood stem cells reflects these disparities. The emergence of cord blood economy has been accompanied by contested expectations related to an array of issues, including altruism, motherhood, wealth, nationalism, sharing, and ethical justification. Although donors often remain interested in the prospective use of the biomaterials, their concerns and expectations have been overlooked.
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Keywords: bioeconomy; expectation; umbilical cord blood

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Social Science Program, Sungkonghoe University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Publication date: July 2, 2016

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