In the book “My Sister’s Keeper” by Judy Picoult, the author talks about two sisters. They are both young girls. One has been sick all of her life with leukemia while the other is healthy. The parents have always favored the sister with the cancer. As a matter of fact, they had the second girl so she could donate her bone marrow to the sick sister.
But finally, the donor sister gets tired of all of the pain that is involved with taking care of her sister, even though she loves her very much. Finally, it comes to the point that her parents want her to donate a kidney to her sister because her’s have failed. This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
She hires an attorney to represent her against her parents so she doesn’t have to go through the pain of donating a kidney. After all, she has spent her whole life in hospitals even though she isn’t sick to help her sister out, and now she’s just tired and wants a life of her own. It makes for a very compelling drama.
But there is a way for a newborn baby to donate blood to help others in need with any harm. It’s called “cord blood” and it comes from the umbilical cord when a mother gives birth. There are umbilical cord banks all over the country that store this cord blood so it can be used for other patients that require stem cells for leukemia.
According to CNN: “When Leidy Sanchez and her husband, Carlos Reyes, went to the hospital last week to deliver their baby, a nurse got her a gown, hooked her up to a fetal monitor and asked an unexpected question: Would they like to donate cells from their baby’s umbilical cord blood to a public bank?”
Cord banks have offered to privately store cells from umbilical cords so families that need the stem cells for family members with leukemia can use them for transfusions for some years now, but now they can be stored in public banks free of charge to help strangers.
The worry is: “what if the child who donates the stem cells in the first place develops leukemia, but his cells have already been donated to somebody else” Doctors say that fear is unfounded. If the baby develops leukemia , then chances are that the cord blood already has leukemia cells in it and would be unacceptable for transplant anyway.
But the cord cells could be helpful to siblings and they wouldn’t have to go through the painful procedure of having them harvested from their spines like in the book. And the cells could help save many other lives as well. And like adult stem cells, there is no controversy about abortion involved with them.