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A Gift of Life or a Scam?

June 25, 2005

Re "Stem cells in the bank -- for what, it's not yet known," June 19: The real story behind cord blood is the value of donation, a point buried in your article. About eight years ago, the young son of a friend had his leukemia return. The prognosis was grim. The only hope: a then-experimental treatment using donated cord blood. It worked.

The success inspired me to donate my baby's cord blood a year or so later. It took a lot of effort to find a way to donate and to educate my doctor and others on the option of donating.

Two years later, when my son was born I could not even find a registry that would accept a donation.

More money and more education are needed to support umbilical cord donation. Perhaps private banking is questionable, but more emphasis should be given to supporting donations, which saved the life of my friend's son.

Kim Peasley

Claremont

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I actively discourage my patients from wasting money on cord blood banking. I am appalled by the lies in the mountains of "informational" brochures left anonymously in my waiting room and by the bribes offered to myself and other obstetricians to encourage our participation in this snake-oil scam.

But most reprehensible of all is the way these companies manipulate the fears of soon-to-be mothers for their financial gain.

Behind the name of every physician who recommends this process is the name of the cord blood company with whom he has a monetary stake.

Patrick M. Sutton MD

Pasadena

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Ten years ago, my son was diagnosed with myelodyplasia, a pre-leukemia. His only hope was a bone marrow transplant. After many months, a cord blood match was found at the New York Cord Blood bank, a national cord blood bank for all patients needing a bone marrow transplant.

For-profit cord blood banks target parents' fear of what could happen to any child. A question to parents who store their baby's cord blood: If your child developed leukemia, would you want to use blood that has the potential to develop the same disease?

Storing cord blood in a national cord blood bank would ensure all children a chance at life in the event that they develop various blood diseases. What a waste of precious umbilical cord blood stored away for no one to use. My son is alive today because a mother unselfishly donated her child's umbilical cord blood.

Linda Mandel

Torrance

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