Serendipity: addendum to Breastfeeding: the lost art

Yesterday's blog shared a patent invented by human milk researchers Ardythe L. Morrow, David S. Newburg, and Guillermo M. Ruiz-Palacios. Their research on human milk resulted in creating an invention that could be an ingredient in infant formula as well as a nutritional composition, a rehydration solution, etc. The Children's Hospital Medical Center (Cincinnati Ohio), Instituto Nacional De Ciencias Medicas Y Nutricion (Mexico D.F. Mexico), and the University of Massachusetts (Boston, Masschusetts) are the owners of the patent. I kept thinking about this and realized there is more to this than meets the eye. According to a document from the Cincinnati Children's (not-for-profit hospital and research center),

"Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center is a collection site for the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio, located in Columbus, Ohio [a HMBANA milk bank]
... In 2006 the Center for Breastfeeding Medicine received a grant from the Ronald McDonald House Charities to cover the start of costs of becoming a depot site..." Cincinnati Children's have maintained the facilities since that start-up.

In a paper written by SR Geraghty et al. (as well as Ardythe Morrow) in the Journal of Human Lactation 2005 Feb;219101:59-66 entitled, "The development of a research human milk bank." They state in their abstract: "Donation [human milk] to the Cincinnati Children's Research Human Milk Bank are accepted within the context of ongoing, hypothesis-driven research or on an ad hoc basis. Donors must give informed consent, and scientists wishing to use the samples must have Institutional review board approval for their use."

I have alot of questions about this. But having dealt with HMBANA before, I realize that they are not going to answer any of my emails. I emailed various directors and the executive director years ago (about the year 2000). They answered some of my questions but then refused to answer any further questions--they didn't like my "tone" of questions.

The Institutional review board obviously approved the use of human milk for these researchers to create a patent for use in infant formula, as well as other food stuffs. What organization do these reviewers come from? The hospital itself? Obviously milk donated for the HMBANA milk bank in Columbus is kept separate from that which is donated to the research milk bank. How does this work? What steps are done to keep this separate? Does the consent form that donors sign for research on their milk, state the possibility of patenting and that the patenting may enrich the infant formula industry? Don't think I will get my answers but it is just good to write them down and mull it over in my mind.

I guess the serendipitous moment was running across a recent article on "Eats on Feets," the organization that connects through social-networking mothers who have extra breastmilk with mothers who need it for their infants. In this article published in February 21, 2011, they interview Dr. Sheela R. Geraghty, the medical director of the Center for Breastfeeding Medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Yes, the same author of the article in the Journal of Human Lactation (2005 Feb;21(1) called, "The development of a research human milk bank." I suppose the interview is to give a "balanced" view of the concept of Eats on Feets. Dr. Geraghty states in this article, "People ask me all the time about sharing (breast) milk. I unfortunately have to say we're not there yet in saying it's OK." The previous statement in this article before the doctor's comment was that health professionals are warning of the risks of sharing breastmilk via the internet.

Hm...the irony...I am left without a word to describe this situation. I wrote warnings about this 10 years ago. No one liked my "tone." There is a real truth to the fact that we silence our messengers.

We cannot know the intentions of the receipient of that donor milk. It is the essence of human nature, that some people will deceive us by either not telling us the whole truth or they will outright lie to us. We become a nation of many rules because truth is often destroyed in the interest of getting ahead financially or professionally.
Copyright 2011 Valerie McClain

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