Court orders Biocord to begin transfer donors’chord blood

Development could signal end of legal battle over private umbilical chord blood bank's alleged mishandling of blood.

April 5, 2013 07:44
2 minute read.
Transplant surgery [illustrative photo]

Organ transplant surgery doctor medical dr. 370 (R). (photo credit: Keith Bedford / Reuters)

In a development which may signal the end of a dramatic and emotional legal battle, the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday issued an order with instructions for Biocord, the private umbilical chord blood bank (a storage facility for possible future use), to begin transferring its donors’ chord blood to other locations.

The court order specified a number of conditions, reflecting its concern both for the safety of the blood, and over the erosion of trust in Biocord after its alleged mishandling of the blood and violation of applicable regulations.

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The conditions included providing a list of the number and specific identity of all donor blood to be transferred, as well as written parental consent in each case. It also demanded an exact description of the process of the transfer and a declaration from those carrying out the move that no aspects of it would harm the donor blood.

The transfers are also to be continually supervised by the Health Ministry.

Both private and public chord blood banks have developed since the mid-to-late 1990s in response to the potential for chord blood transplants in treating diseases of the blood and immune systems.

Chord blood contains special stem cells that can form red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Because of their special properties, chord blood cells are currently used to treat blood and immune system-related genetic diseases, cancers, and blood disorders.

Public chord blood banks accept donations to be used for anyone in need and the donated blood is also used for research purposes.

Private chord blood banking is more controversial as it entails considerable fees and is premised on being saved for the person who donated it as a newborn.

In November 2012, a new law was passed regulating the storage and handling of chord blood. Previously, companies like Biocord had operated on an unregulated basis. Soon after, the Health Ministry found that Biocord was not functioning in compliance with the criteria for storing and handling such blood, nor was it economically stable enough to maintain operations long-term.

At the end of January the Health Ministry ordered Biocord to stop taking new clients and to inform current clients that it could not continue operations.

As a result of the public controversy, Biocord lost its contracts for maintaining the blood in regular locations and was forced to relocate it to a storage facility in Rishon Lezion.

In light of the violations noted by the Health Ministry and the transfer of the blood, the ministry and the parents who stored their children’s umbilical chord blood in Biocord’s bank have been up in arms and waging a legal battle for months to prevent damage to the blood.

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