Couple authorized to export the umbilical cord of the unborn child for the future

A couple awaiting the imminent birth of their child has just been granted the right to keep their umbilical cord for therapeutic purposes, by the tribunal de grande instance of Grasse. An ordinance that is at odds with the law. The applicants wanted to reserve the cord blood in anticipation of a possible disease to come later in the life of the unborn child.

LBoth members of the couple come from families who have experienced cancer, including those of the pancreas and the liver and fear a genetic predisposition in the child who is due to be born on December 18. They hope they can use the blood stem cells if cancer does break out and science suggests a suitable solution from the cryopreserved tissue. The Grasse court granted their request to cryogenize the umbilical cord, so they can use the services of a British company specializing in the field. In France, in fact, the blood cord cannot be kept for private purposes. Not by anticipation either. The order issued by the court on November 21 therefore disregards two legal principles.

Article L1241-1 of the Public Health Code provides: “The removal of hematopoietic cells from cord blood and placental blood as well as cells from the cord and the placenta may only be carried out for scientific or therapeutic purposes, with a view to an anonymous and free donation […] By derogation , the donation can be dedicated to the child born or to the brothers or sisters of this child in the event of proven therapeutic need and duly justified during the collection. "

A proven technique, but limited to the known, in the face of an abusive use of the private sector

The first hematopoietic stem cell transplant was carried out by French doctors in 1988. A team from the Hematology-Transplant department led by the professor, ElianeGlucksman at Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris, had used cord blood cells from the patient's younger brother, taken at birth. Today, this method is generalized in the world, more than 100 people have already benefited from it, and it has the advantage of greater availability compared to bone marrow transplantation, without the risks of rejection that accompany the latter. However, it is not certain that keeping the cord for at least 25 years is effective, its effectiveness beyond two decades is not yet known, and " no study to date has demonstrated the therapeutic efficacy of transplants performed from one's own cord blood »Kept for years after birth and for all kinds of ailments. Professor of hematology at Pierre-et-Marie-Curie University, Paris VI, disputes the relevance of this judicial decision which he considers medically insane: “Today, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the umbilical cord contains cells that will one day be able to treat any type of pathology, in particular cancerous, or regenerate tissues. "

This decision, which is based on a more very uncertain science, seems above all to be a way of reassuring anxious parents. like the judgments authorizing the cryopreservation of bodies after the death in order to bring the deceased back to life for centuries afterwards. If it does not come from an ignorance of the current state of science. A prescription that, no matter what, arises in contradiction with the Penal Code including articles 511-8 to 511-8-2 providing in particular up to five years' imprisonment and a fine of 75 euros for the export of tissues or cells under the conditions just authorized by the court of Grasse.

The French legislator has made the choice of solidarity, with the development of a placental blood network, the donation being disinterested, anonymous and free, with, of course, the exception of the use of hemapoietic cells of the cord in the family setting if necessary. Thus, French law strikes a balance between solidarity and the interest of the donor or his entourage, preventing the development of private banks which would harm solidarity.

However, if this approach is understandable, that of the moral right of individuals to have their own cells, also has its ethical justification. And this is perhaps one of the arguments that helped make the order, even if, in this case, it is unwittingly helping a couple in disarray to perhaps get ripped off by impossible promises from the UK conservation society.

Hans-Søren Dag

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