Deb reminded me of a…well, I was going to call it a pet peeve, but it’s more like a giant hulking issue that pisses me off. Kind of like the difference between a fluffy kitten and a LION THAT WILL EAT YOU.
But I digress. The issue at hand is cord blood banking, which is one of those things that sounds like a slam dunk until you disengage expectant mommy brain and engage, y’know, a little skepticism.
Here’s the deal: There are some diseases that have been treated using cord blood. Using your own cord blood is the ideal situation, because there are no issues of donor mismatch or rejection. However, donor cord blood can be used. The National Marrow Donor Program (plug, plug) has tried to get public cord blood banking going, but so far, the market is dominated by for-profits. (To donate publicly, the hospital you deliver at has to be part of the network and it’s still very small. Only one hospital in Maryland, for example.)
In any case, Deb was given a link to the Cord Blood Education Center, which just happens (she notes with no surprise whatsoever) to be sponsored by a big for-profit cord blood bank.
This sketchy site gets your name and e-mail address before it lets you access anything, and I’ll have you know that for you, yes you, my faithful readers, I actually gave these people my e-mail address so I could access the content. ::shudders:: I feel so dirty. I registered as a “childbirth educator”, so the content I saw might be slightly different than what expectant parents see, but I figured this way I wasn’t exactly lying.
The site starts out by giving you a long and scary-sounding list of diseases they claim have been treated with cord blood. Well, except that they don’t exactly claim that. They note that cord blood contains stem cells. And here are diseases that have been treated with stem cells. In clinical trials, in many cases. And, we’re not going to give you links to the research, just tell you it’s in the medical literature. And, um, we’re not going to claim they’ve been successfully treated…
But to get that understanding, you’ve got to read every word very carefully. I suspect I’m slightly more anal-retentive than most folks and I have the advantage of not being pregnant and hormonal and crazy! (What? I can’t have been the only woman who because dangerously insane while pregnant, can I?)
Then they go on to extol the wonders of banking and how the blood can be used to treat other members of the family too. “In family banking, the cord blood is collected and stored, for a fee, for exclusive use by the family should a medical need arise in the future. Families elect this option as a type of ‘biological insurance.'”
Oh yeah, there’s public banking. Or the hospital will throw the blood out.
But did we mention that we can store it for you, y’know, out of the goodness of our own hearts, so that some other shmuck doesn’t use it before you can? Oh wait, not out of the goodness of our hearts…for a big chunk of moolah. What the educational site doesn’t mention is that this company charges about $2,000 for processing and storage for the first year, and then about $125 every year thereafter.
And once you’ve banked this stuff, are you ever going to bring yourself to throw it out? Once you’ve gotten yourself psyched up and afraid that little Johnny is going to develop leukemia, how can you throw out the cord blood that’s going to SAVE HIS PRECIOUS LITTLE LIFE???
I can’t exactly call this a scam because cord blood and stem cells do save lives. If public cord banking were widely available, I’d be first in line to urge everyone to donate their kids’ cord blood. I’m still mad that I wasn’t able to, and all those stem cells that could have saved someone’s life went to waste.
But the question is: What are the odds that your little Johnny is going to get one of those diseases and be given a treatment that requires those stem cells? I honestly don’t know, but I’d be willing to bet the odds aren’t that high. Sure, it’s possible, and if you can spare the money and it makes you feel better, then what the hell, go for it. But there’s a very good chance you’re throwing money down the drain that you might need later to, oh, pay for your kids’ braces. Which, given my teeth, is a hell of a lot more likely.
If you want to do something useful, campaign your local hospital to join in public cord blood banking. That way, the cord blood is available in case Johnny gets sick and in case Susie down the street gets sick.