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Ask the Readers: Umbilical Cord as a Form of Health/Life Insurance?

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I have mentioned it a couple of times previously, but in a few months, if all goes well, I'll be the father to a baby boy. This brings a bunch of difficult questions like whether to get a Patriots or Red Sox diaper bag and what is the proper age to introduce him to Firefly/Serenity and Buffy the Vampire Slayer? (It was Patriots in a landslide and the Joss Whedon masterpieces is still open for debate.)

However, there's one question that I never anticipated... should I save and freeze the umbilical cord for later? My wife and I didn't even freeze our wedding cake for our anniversary and now people are asking us about freezing human flesh? Fortunately, they won't be using my freezer. I don't need that mess getting in my ice cream.

I'm new to this, but the idea seems to be that you freeze the umbilical cord and giving you access to stem cells in the event that they help you later should you develop a medical condition. I haven't done much research on the topic. I have only a small knowledge of stem cells and I couldn't tell you what they've been shown to help or where it is headed. What I do know is that the stem cells "could" be helpful not only to our baby, but for me and/or my wife as well. It's not like health insurance in the form of covering medical expenses, but it has the potential ensure you live a longer life.

The price of this protection is around two to three thousand dollars upfront and anywhere from $125 to $250 a year for maintaining this umbilical cord in a frozen state. Perhaps there are cheaper prices if I shop around, but I'm quoting the place that contacted us.

It's very rare that I instinctively don't know which way I'm leaning on an issue. This is one of those cases. Perhaps when I get more information the decision will be easier. I know that a majority of society pokes fun at those who have their heads or bodies frozen with the hopes of being thawed out later. However, I think George Carlin had it right:

"I want to live. I don't want to die. That's the whole secret of life...not dying! I figured that [expletive] out alone in third grade...

Leave my plug alone. Get an extension cord for my plug. I want everything you got, tubes, cords, plugs, probes, electrodes, IVs. You got something (click), stick it in me man. You find out I got a hole I didn't know I had, put a [expletive] plug in it."

With that in mind, maybe I am leaning towards doing it. Give me your thoughts in the comments.

Posted on June 5, 2012.

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17 Responses to “Ask the Readers: Umbilical Cord as a Form of Health/Life Insurance?”

  1. MJS says:

    We didn’t do it for either kid. I don’t think the technology is totally there yet and the cost benefit analysis for us made it not worth it. I know a few people that stored theirs and we looked in to it, but in the end, we passed.

  2. Aster says:

    You should probably research this more if you make a decision.

    Note that if your baby her/himself has a genetic medical condition, stem cells from their own cord will not be able to ‘cure’ them down the track since that information would be hardwired from the start, so stem cells are fairly useless from their point of view.

    What makes you expect that the stem cells will be usable according to the technology of the day by the time you need it? Is the cord blood bank situated in an area likely to be affected by flood/fire/natural disasters? Are you certain that medical advances will head in that direction? Will you even want to take advantage of it at that time, assuming that the stem cells will be usable, within your budget, not have too horrendous side effects etc.?

    Source: My partner used to work for the therapeutic goods administration (tga.gov.au) in Australia in the area regulating standards for cord blood banks.

  3. Lazy Man says:

    MJS,

    Thanks for the thoughts.

    Aster,

    It would be hardly be possible for me to have done less research at this point. So any research will be “more.” You definitely gave me some things to think about.

    One thing that I forgot to put in the article that is that I’d also need the hospital/medical center willing to make use the stem cells. I’m not sure the answer on that one.

  4. Steve says:

    With any purchase large or small, you need to have a reason to do it. Guilty until proven innocent, or rather, worthless until proven worthwhile. I looked into it about as much as you seem to have. The “might benefit the child or sibling at some point in the future in some unknown way” was just not a strong value proposition.

  5. Lazy Man says:

    Steve, I think when I actually do research, I’ll find that there are practical uses. I don’t believe that stem cell research is a hoax or anything like that. So I expect to find some kind of known benefit/value proposition there… the problem will probably be come in attempting to quantify it.

  6. This is so interesting, I have never heard of such thing before. What percentage of people out there are doing this? Personally I would not go ahead with it because I think it just sounds too elusive, there are too many ifs and variables involved. I’m also curious as to what is the option that the mother of the child have on this? You didn’t mention it.

  7. Cat says:

    I am looking at this from a totally different viewpoint. Look what dna tests have done for solving old crimes-testing blood that no one from a long time ago could solve-there were no tests available then. If saving the cord now would somehow save a life in the future, go for it. George Carlin would!

  8. Catherine says:

    Please consider donating it to the public cord blood bank. It’s free and it could save the life of someone’s son/daughter/sister/brother/parent in need right now.

    http://marrow.org/Get_Involved/Donate_Cord_Blood/Cord_Blood_FAQs.aspx

  9. Steve says:

    @Catherine that’s what we did. Donate it for free to help someone today vs. pay thousands of dollars to maybe, hypothetically help yourself in the future? I don’t understand why it’s even a dilemma.

  10. robyn says:

    if you were diabetic or had crohn’s disease you would do it in a heartbeat. research for these and other semi-hereditary diseases is staggering. guy i worked for last year, peter, is a type 1 diabetic, froze both kids cord blood ‘just in case, god forbid, they are diabetic, it will be there when the research is ready’ me: and if not needed? peter: i can afford to gamble $1000. i have no problem being wrong about this, but if i don’t and am wrong the other way, i will NEVER forgive myself.

  11. Evan says:

    We had the same decision to make and when we talked to the doctor about he said if it prevents you from making a mortgage payment don’t do it, but if you are going to miss a weekend in AC do it.

    Basically for us it came down to preventing the “what if.” Yes it is objectively expensive but I am not sure I could live with myself if one day they crack the steam cell puzzle and I decided to save a few grand instead.

  12. Steve says:

    Those “I couldn’t live with myself if” fears are exactly what the snake oil salespeople, er I mean “Cord Blood Banks” are preying on.

  13. Lazy Man says:

    Except that the science for stem cells doesn’t seem to be snake oil.

  14. Lazy Man says:

    Catherine,

    We considered donating the cord blood, but there are only 5 hospitals in California that accept donations. We tried to get into the only one in our area, Lucile Packard at Stanford, but our doctor wasn’t affiliated with them. Looks like donation is simply not an option.

  15. Catherine says:

    You can actually get a cord blood collection kit from a cord blood bank to use at any hospital for donation.

  16. Catherine says:

    Here is a link to the cord blood FAQ on the Be The Match web site…

    http://marrow.org/Get_Involved/Donate_Cord_Blood/Cord_Blood_FAQs.aspx#Q18

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