What Influences Mothers-to-Be Towards One Type of Umbilical Cord Collection Facility Versus Another? (by Sean Robertson)

Sean Robertson

Introduction

The research question I have developed for this topic is based around the community theme of health and wellness that I have volunteered in at OHSU’s Cord Blood Donation Program. Through my time spent volunteering with this program I have developed a thorough understanding of the differences between for-profit, private collection umbilical cord centers and public umbilical cord donation banks. Given the information I now know about each type of collection facility, I’d like to know what influences mothers-to-be towards one type of umbilical cord collection facility versus another.

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 What the Research Says

Research Journal 1:

Halladay, Alycia. “Cord Blood Banking.” Autism Speaks. N.p., 01 June 2013. Web. 03 June 2015.

Autism Speaks’ article on the use of using umbilical cord blood for transplant in children battling hematological disorders and Autism, highlights some of the risks and benefits about cord blood transplant on the minds of many mothers. This article clearly states how private collection facilities are for profit companies that store cord blood as a type of “life insurance” for one’s baby. This article also recognizes the need for more research to be done in the field of regenerative medicine to understand how scientists can most effectively use these cells collected from the umbilical cord for treatment.

Research Journal 2:

Umbilical cord blood banking. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 399. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. February 2008. Web. 03 June 2015.

This research journal speaks to the need to make sure patients are well informed on both types of umbilical cord blood donation. This article notes how physicians and nurses should disclose any financial interest associated with umbilical cord blood banking for private banks that many patients are not made aware of. This journal also argues the case for patients to be made aware of the very small number of actual cord blood transplants back to the original child from which the blood was attained.

Research Journal 3:

Belkin, Lisa. “Is Banked Cord Blood Worth It?” The New York Times, 11 Mar. 2009. Web. 03 June 2015.

This New York Times article on the debate between private and public cord blood donation showcases the essential truth behind public donation banking: if enough patients were to donate their umbilical cord blood to public banks there would be no need for private banking facilities. This is due to the fact that there would be a wide enough array of blood donations that would be easier to match up with a recipient in need of cord blood. This article, much like the previous, argues for full disclosure of physician’s affiliation to private blood banks as they receive a kickback for every patient they get enrolled into their program.

Part 2: Blog Article

What are you banking on?

Most mothers who have undergone pregnancy in recent years will recognize a familiar practice: cord blood banking. Yet, many mothers do not recognize the differences between private cord banking and public donation banks. This article aims to thoroughly investigate the differences between the varying practices and better understand the motivation for which causes mother’s to bank their child’s umbilical cord blood. My interest in this subject matter stems from my curiosity in the increasing popularity of regenerative medicine. I am fascinated by the idea of creating cures to diseases instead of pharmaceutical treatments. Umbilical cord blood, while rich in stem cells, could be the cure for hundreds of currently incurable diseases.

Over the past year, I have been volunteering with the Cord Blood Donation Program at OHSU. Through my time spent as a volunteering in Labor and Delivery, I have learned the fundamental differences of what drives patients towards cord blood donation versus private banking, to not banking the unit whatsoever. In order to understand the importance of cord blood banking, one needs to first understand the importance of umbilical cord blood. As the New York Times article on cord blood banking states, “cord blood, a source of stem cells, taken from the umbilical cord of a newborn immediately after birth. It doesn’t hurt the baby — they are not even attached to the cord any longer when the blood is taken — and it could be potentially life saving for someone else down the road, should those cells be a match for someone being treated for blood disease that requires a stem cell transplant” (Belkin). This New York Times article on the debate between private and public cord blood donation showcases the essential truth behind public donation banking: if enough patients were to donate their umbilical cord blood to public banks there would be no need for private banking facilities. This is due to the fact that there would be a wide enough array of blood donations that would be easier to match up with a recipient in need of cord blood.

The reality, however, is that the use of umbilical cord blood for transplant is still widely unknown. While recognizable that umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells, the use of stem cells as medical treatment is still being studied, with only a handful of small, human trials currently underway. Autism Speaks argues that one-day umbilical cord blood transplant may an effective cure to autism. In order for that to become a reality, this article also recognizes the need for more research to be done in the field of regenerative medicine to understand how scientists can most effectively use these cells collected from the umbilical cord for treatment.

In the world today there is a heightened excitement over science and the proven medical advances that have taken place within the last 20 years. With such incredible advances in medicine it seems as though there may be a day when any ailment is curable. As scientists work to find cures to the vast variety of diseases that plague the human body, charlatans exaggerate the promises of rapid clinical application and make unqualified claims of early success on web pages, much like that of private collection banks. This heightens the expectations of desperate parents in medicine and falsely leads them to believe in treatments for some of the most serious diseases in society. Patients who suffer, or know someone who is suffering, from an incurable disease will seek any treatment available by endlessly searching the web for experimental therapies or anecdotal reports of cures. With the simple creation of a website, charlatans can trick these wide-eyed patients by advertising a list of diseases their therapy has “proven” to cure. To the unsuspecting eye, the website makes it look as though the advertised therapy works as there is informational videos and scientific reports eclectically complied from university websites.

Parents are also heavily influenced to privately bank cord blood due their physician’s influence. In the New York Times article, Belkin argues for full disclosure of a physician’s affiliation to private blood banks as they receive a kickback for every patient they get enrolled into their program. Parents should also be made aware that there is a very slim possibility that their child’s cord blood is ever transplanted back into them if they were to develop a disease: “The odds that the cord blood of any given baby will be needed by that baby later in life are quite small, explained Dr. Steven Joffe, the study’s senior author and a pediatric oncologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School. One reason is that for many of the conditions where a blood cell transplant is the answer, a patient’s own blood cells can not be used, because they would reintroduce the disease you are trying to cure” (Belkin).

The best way for the public to get involved in cord blood donation is to spread the word about the differences between public donation banks and private collection banks. While not all private cord blood banks are a scam, it is important to recognize the likelihood of a child’s cord blood ever being used for transplant within the family. Whereas, with public donation banks, communities are able to develop a wide-enough bank of stem cells that transplant can become available to any patient. Recognizing how one is influenced to donate or privately bank cord blood in a time of rapid medical advancement helps us to better understand how we can grow our community as a whole.

Works Cited

 

Belkin, Lisa. “Is Banked Cord Blood Worth It?” The New York Times, 11 Mar. 2009. Web. 03 June 2015.

Halladay, Alycia. “Cord Blood Banking.” Autism Speaks. N.p., 01 June 2013. Web. 03 June 2015.

Umbilical cord blood banking. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 399. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. February 2008. Web. 03 June 2015.

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2 comments

  1. Daniel Parks

    I actually didn’t know about the banking of umbilical cord blood, public or private. It doesn’t surprise me that private banks would give kickbacks to doctors for securing their samples. I imagine the business would be quite lucrative. I did do some heavy research into stem cells for a paper last quarter, and they have always caught my interest, as I have an incurable illness myself. I’m excited about their possible potential, though I’m not about to throw in huge amounts of money to undergo experimental cures until there has been heavy studies and the results are proven. I imagine that there are some who will, which is what a lot of these ‘charlatans’ you mention are banking on.

    I like how you advocate for donation to public banks. It is true, if public banks had enough supply to satisfy demand, the private banks would dry up. This is why so many private banks resort to shady tactics like misinformation and providing kickbacks for doctors. With proper supply in public banks, treatments could be given to those who need them, instead of just those who can afford them.

  2. Estelle Norris

    Sean,

    This is the first time I’ve had a chance to review any of your work. Job well done! Your 8 point slide at the top of the blog is very eye catching and made me want to see what was to come! Good overall flow and layout of your blog. Very informative and well written.

    I have to say, I’ve heard of umbilical cord blood banking but didn’t really know much about it, including why it is so important now. You make it clear in your post how it could be life saving, but I like that you point out the small likelihood that a family would ever need/use their own member’s cord blood. If I were to do it, I definitely would have considered using a private bank so I would have access to my child’s cord blood. Your one point about the use of one’s own cord blood reintroducing the disease they are trying to cure makes it all make sense for me.

    I’m sure there are many people who know a great deal about this subject. I am not one of them so thank you for introducing me to a topic that is very unfamiliar and doing so in a way that is easy to understand! Great job!

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