Earlier this week, ABC Australia posted a fascinating report on a modern practice by parents paying significant sums of money to store (or bank) their baby’s umbilical cord blood. While cord blood has been used widely by patients (not related to the donor) in other medical settings such as bone marrow transplants, this new practice is designed to help the donor babies later in life for treatment of conditions that they hope science will discover meaningful solutions for in the coming years. According to the report, “The hope is that the young, versatile stem and immune cells in the blood could eventually be used to repair damage caused by anything from cystic fibrosis to a heart attack with no risk of rejection.”
What is occurring, however, is that not all physicians are accepting of this concept.
The subject of this news story, a West Australian mother, Barbara Ayling, has cerebral palsy. This is one of the conditions that parents and researchers are hoping will prove to be treatable through stem cell research using umbilical cord blood. Ms. Ayling and her husband had made arrangements to have their baby’s cord blood stored through the age of majority. The plan went awry when the obstetrician who agreed to participate in this collection and storage process was unavailable and the delivery was performed by a different doctor who refused to carry out the procedure.
“It’s a choice that I have the right to make. Apart from anything else, I’m spending a phenomenal amount of money to do this,” Ms Ayling said.
“I’ve made a very informed decision and I would have liked that to have been more respected.”
The doctor declined to be respond when asked to do so by the station.
Further details about this banking program were provided by an online video. The reporter asks her audience the opening question: “How much would you be willing to pay to guarantee your child access to a yet unproven but potentially life-saving cure for potential disease?” It turns out that at least in Australia, that price tag varies between $3,000 to $6,000. Unfortunately for some, this ‘investment’ in their child’s future health went the way of many investments – it tanked when the company storing the blood went out of business.
It is clear that this practice is not restricted to Australia. More to the point, there are a number of companies in the United States ostensibly offering parents the same banking of their child’s umbilical cord blood. For instance, a company called Alpha Cord, which according to its website has been in business since 2002, promotes the fact that it is different from other cord blood banking operations in the United States since it provides parents with an additional layer of security for their investment.
In the unlikely event the bank you’ve chosen should dissolve, we will move your cord blood to another licensed and accredited facility in our system. If you bank directly, there is typically no automatic or seamless provision for an adverse event such as this. (Source Alpha Cord website’s FAQ’s)
Alpha Cord provides its site’s visitors with videos about the process, purpose and benefits of storing a baby’s umbilical cord blood cells. The benefits range from future transfusion needs to potentially successfully treating later disease and/or injuries. Alpha Cord advises that currently hundreds of thousands of parents have elected to store their baby’s cord blood. In its comparative pricing chart, it compares its reduced price (ostensibly due to networking discounts) and parents are offered a geographical locator for participating banks and then an online calculator with options for how many years one may want to store their child’s cord blood.
For example, if a parent were to store their child’s cord blood in Utah, the initial fee would be $775; whereas, storage in Chicago, New Jersey or Colorado would cost $1,395. Annual storage fees for Alpha Cord are $115 with a 20 year storage plan amounting to $2,180. If you would like to get a ‘comparative shopping list,’ Alpha Cord provides such a chart.
Given the unwillingness of the Australian mother’s obstetrician, parents planning to utilize this service might be well advised to confirm that their obstetrician and those who might be covering for him/her are on board with the collection process. If you have had experience with this or similar programs but have encountered resistance by your obstetrician or hospital, sharing your experiences might be of great value to others considering banking of their child’s cord blood.