Materia Medica Malaysiana

June 29, 2003

105687585729534765

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 4:37 pm

Should you cryopreserve your baby’s stem cells?

The Star today features prominently an article entitled “A cord of riches“. In this article Cryocord, a local cord blood cryopreservation private concern, promotes the advantages of freezing one’s newborn baby’s cord blood.

I thought the report was woefully short on the ethical matters of private cord blood banking. The issue of a community cord blood bank (which would serve the community in a more cost-effective way) was not mentioned at all.

From the CNN article by Jeffery Kahn on the ethical matters of private Cord Blood Banking :

Lessons from blood banking

Blood banking created a system that has inspired community confidence that blood will be available to anyone who needs it, such that there is very little talk of personal banking of “autologous”blood. The exception came when AIDS was first thought to be transmitted by transfusion, but before testing for HIV was available. Patients preparing for elective surgery might elect to give a unit or two of blood in advance of the surgery to assure that any transfusion would use their own blood. Since the terms of the donation were often that any blood not used while the patient was in the hospital would revert to the general pool. The unused blood this practice created led to a short-term increase in the blood supply.

No such increase will exist with personal cord blood banking since the selling point of storage is that it will remain available throughout the individual’s life. Instead of reverting to a community supply, unused cord blood would remain frozen and effectively wasted.

Personal cord blood banking is a classic example of “me first” thinking, but it is wrong headed. Community cord blood banks will serve our collective interests without asking individuals to sacrifice theirs, and save many lives in the process. These are the ultimate goals of any public policy, and they are well within reach. Only those profiting by trading on the worst fears of parents will see their interests undermined, but those are interests not worth promoting.

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