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How Far Would You Go For a Patient?
By Noah Evslin, Director of Medical Research
If you watch our show closely, you realize it's not the medical treatments that make Private Practice different than other shows on television; rather, it's the ethical debates our doctors have over any of the myriad decisions they need to make every week.
This week's main medical story revolves around a dilemma Cooper faces when he discovers that his eight-year-old patient KERRI GILBERT needs a cord blood transfusion, yet the only available match belongs to another family who won't let him use it. Cooper then needs to decide:
How far is he willing to go to save a patient?
Cord blood banking is a relatively new phenomenon. In the 1970s, researchers discovered that umbilical cord blood could supply the same kinds of hematopoietic stem cells as a bone marrow donor. But it wasn't until the late 1980s that these cells were first transplanted into sick patients to help them fight certain childhood cancers, blood diseases and immune system disorders.
A short time after this, cord blood banks began appearing around the world. Their sole purpose is to store cryogenically frozen stem cells donated by parents eager to protect their family against disease. And business is booming. As of today, over 18 million people have donated cord blood.
That being said, 99% of all cord blood stored in private cord blood banks never gets used. This is exactly the argument that Cooper uses when trying to convince the donor family to give up their stored stem cells to help save sick Kerri's life. But the family had reasons of their own not to give up the blood, so Cooper is forced to make a drastic and, perhaps, rash decision.
With Kerri clinging to life, Cooper steals the cord blood from St. Ambrose's blood bank and infuses it into Kerri, effectively saving her life, yet breaking the law and damaging his relationship with Charlotte.
Did Cooper make the right decision?