Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stem Cell Research's Darker Side

Spring time’s in the air. Can’t you feel it?

I can’t help but feel it. And see it.

That’s because it seems like half my nursing staff are pregnant right now.

Despite all the bad news in the economy, life goes on.

But this morning I was bothered by a conversation I had with one of our nurses. She shared with me the guilt she felt after failing to sign up for the Cord Blood Registry promoted by her obstetrician. She simply did not have the $2,700 registration fee and didn’t want to pay the additional annual maintenance fee of $150. But not only did she get to feel the guilt of not doing what she perceived her doctor thought might be best for her child, I learned that she was also chastised by a fellow pregnant girlfriend who elected to sign up for the service.

“You should see the pamphlet they give you to read. It explains all the bizarre diseases that you might be able to save by the use of stem cells from your baby’s cord blood. Things like leukemia, and even heart disease.”

It seems the age of "Regenerative Medicine" (pdf) is upon us. You know, the Fountain of Youth. From the Cord Blood Registry's website:
"Regenerative medicine is the next evolution of medical treatments. This revolutionary technology has the potential to develop therapies for previously untreatable diseases and conditions. Examples of diseases regenerative medicine can cure include diabetes, heart disease, renal failure, osteoporosis and spinal cord injuries." - National Institutes of Health
You can even sign up for their free information kit and learn from Suzy Orman how you can afford this service.

Remarkable.

A careful review of the clinical applications for this science demonstrate that many of these therapies are experimental or have only been anecdotally applied. While there might be a place for this research eventually in health care, we must ask ourselves to what extent we want to market this unproven and costly service to our easily-influenced and vulnerable young mothers-to-be. What incentives might there be for the obstetricians who recommend this service? Might they be involved in stem cell research themselves? Certainly, one can make the case that such a service might be welcomed for mothers from families with inherited diseases, but to market this service lock, stock, and barrel to every expectant mother out there?

I don't buy it. Somehow, this stinks of someone just wanting to make a buck.

-Wes

2 comments:

phyl said...

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Eileen said...

You can also donate your cord blood, which is what I did when my daughter was born. I felt it was a way to do my part to support the alternatives to embryonic stem cell research, which I vehemently oppose.

Congratulations to your nurses, by the way! All the ones I encountered in your office were an absolute pleasure :)