Call for answers in tissue bank failure

In common with many expectant parents, my husband and I decided when I was pregnant in late 2017 that we would preserve the cord blood from my placenta after giving birth.

We believed then, as we do now, that it was the right thing to do, to help protect the health of our child. We entrusted a company, Precious Cells International, with collecting and storing my blood sample when our son was born in February 2018.

We were devastated to discover shortly after that our sample was not processed. We understand it was duly delivered to a laboratory in Scotland, but staff had run out of a kit required to process samples due to the company’s financial difficulties.

It’s not about the money we lost but about the opportunity to protect the health of our baby, which cannot be recovered. This is particularly distressing for us as my husband’s brother died of cancer at 18 years old.

We were unimpressed by the Human Tissue Authority, which did not break the news well and seems in my opinion to be toothless in these circumstances. We have had little in the way of clarity or updates and progress reports.

I would like confirmation as to exactly what happened with our sample. I would like to know how many other samples were similarly affected and over what period of time. I would like to know what happened to my cord, and my precious cells —how was this, previously a part of my body, disposed of?

To call this an invasion is an understatement. I would like to know how all parties concerned will ensure that this does not happen again.

I do not regret trying to bank my cord. Despite what happened to us, I would still urge people to make this a priority in terms of how you spend your money. But I do now wonder how things were allowed to go so wrong. A year on, we are still waiting for answers.

Susie Steyn (Robbie), London

First published in The Sunday Times, Scottish Edition, 3 March 2019

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