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Stem cell legislation in Michigan has religious exemption for health officials

Legislation introduced on December 17, 2015 by Representative Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak) strengthens Michigan’s public health code concerning how information about cord blood stem cells is shared with pregnant women, but also allows health officials to withhold that information if they feel it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

As it is currently written, Michigan code only encourages health professionals to disseminate information to pregnant women about available options concerning cord blood stem cells. A key aspect of this legislation rescinds that discretionary control and instead requires that the information be shared.

In addition, the bill includes a religious exemption clause. A public health official is not required to inform a pregnant patient about cord blood stem cell options if the official feels that doing so will conflict with their religious beliefs. Officials who decide to withhold that information will be shielded from professional discipline. Michigan law defines cord blood stem cells as “hematopoietic stem cells and any other stem cells contained in the neonatal blood collected immediately after the birth from the separated placenta and umbilical cord.”

The legislation, House Bill 5197, can be found here. It is currently in the Committee on Health Policy.

Editorial Note: 

As is the case in many areas of scientific research that have the potential to significantly impact health and medicine, optimism tends to inflate value and application. There are positives and negatives, costs and benefits. Informed decision making is, as always, ideal. If you’re interested in learning more about where science currently stands with regard to cord blood stem cells and their current and potential future use, the European Union’s independent stem cell consortium produces an informative, independent look.

Photo credit: CDC

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