Accepted Paper:

Rethinking the public versus private debate on UCB biobanking: the participation of donors in the processes of shaping UCB biobanking configurations in Greece  

Authors:

Katerina Vlantoni (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens)
Constantinos Morfakis (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens)

Paper short abstract:

We draw on empirical data to study the debate between the public and the private/family UCB banking models in Greece, by focusing on the participation or obscurity of donors/citizens at different instances, in order to capture the ways they relate to the biotechnologically reformulated tissues-UCBs.

Paper long abstract:

The paper explores the organizational and institutional processes in the shaping of umbilical cord blood (UCB) banking configurations in Greece in tandem with the social, political and economic relations constituted by the emergence of public and private/family banks. UCB banks have been developed, mainly, by following two models: the public one, in which stored UCB units are made available for allogeneic use, and the private one, which entails commercial banks that store UCB units for autologous or family use. Work, mainly by STS scholars, has examined the biotechnological transformation of UCB in relation to the complex institutional arrangements that emerged and to its positioning in the tissue economies. We examine the debate between the public and the private banking models in Greece, a country that for many years had the highest number of private UCB banks per head of population. We draw on empirical investigation based on a range of primary sources (interviews with stakeholders, documentary sources, grey literature, newspaper articles and selected TV shows/documentaries, blogs and online communities of parents/expectant parents). We rethink this debate, not in its bioethical and policy dimensions, but by focusing on the participation or obscurity of donors/citizens at different instances. We seek to illustrate the conflicting discourses on UCB biobanking, by capturing the ways citizens relate to the biotechnologically reformulated tissues when choosing to donate or store the UCB, by participating in discussions regarding the biobanking practices, asking for accountability at some times, and being left aside at others.

Panel V01
Promises and practices of biotechnologies