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Whitakers decide to proceed with cell transplant

8 December 2003
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 237

According to a report in the Daily Mail this weekend, Michelle and Jayson Whitaker have now made up their mind to go ahead with the stem cell transplant that may save their son, Charlie.

In June, the British couple, who were refused permission by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to use embryo screening (PGD - preimplantation genetic diagnosis) to provide a bone marrow donor for their sick son, celebrated the birth of their new son, James. They had travelled to Chicago, in October 2002, for the IVF treatment that would potentially save their existing son. Despite the use of the embryo screening procedure, there remained a two per cent chance that there would be no tissue match between the siblings but, in July, the Whitakers received confirmation that James is a perfect tissue match for his brother. At the time, the couple had not firmly decided to go ahead with the stem cell transplant because the procedure carries a small risk of death for Charlie. In addition, the family were advised to wait six months before considering the stem cell transplant in case signs of Charlie's blood disorder appeared in James.

Charlie Whitaker suffers from Diamond-Blackfan anaemia, a rare disorder of the blood which means he has to undergo a blood transfusion every three weeks. His only chance of living beyond about 30 years is a bone marrow transplant from a compatible donor. The Whitakers have had a daughter since Charlie, but she was unfortunately not a tissue match. Rather than leaving it to chance again, the Whitakers sought PGD to ensure that their next child would be able to help Charlie. But the HFEA said that it could not authorise the treatment because the Whitakers were seeking PGD for tissue typing alone, and not to ensure the embryo was itself free from a serious condition.

A sample of James' umbilical cord blood was taken at birth and sent to the Chicago clinic for testing to confirm the tissue match with Charlie. The remaining cord blood is stored at a stem cell unit in Oxford until it is needed for transplantation. The operation will take place at the Sheffield Children's Hospital.

Thanks, little brother
The Daily Mail |  6 December 2003
28 July 2004 - by BioNews 
Charlie Whitaker, the boy at the centre of one of the fiercest debates over so-called 'saviour siblings' has had a stem cell transplant and is 'on the road to recovery', say his parents. Jayson and Michelle Whitaker made the decision last December to go ahead with the treatment, made possible...
21 July 2003 - by BioNews 
This week sees more good news for Michelle and Jayson Whitaker, the British couple who were refused permission by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to use embryo screening (PGD) to provide a bone marrow donor for their sick son. The Whitakers, who travelled to Chicago for the...
23 June 2003 - by Juliet Tizzard 
This week, the British media has gone crazy about a newborn baby. His name is James Whitaker and he was conceived in order to provide stem cells for his older brother, Charlie. In the reams of commentary which followed James' arrival into the world, two main ethical issues emerged. The...
23 June 2003 - by BioNews 
James Whitaker's birth has provoked calls for fertility laws in the UK to be reformed. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 is now out of date due to advances in embryology and fertility treatments, say its critics, and it should be changed to allow the tissue typing procedure to...
19 June 2003 - by BioNews 
A British couple have succeeded in their quest to have a tissue matched baby. Last summer, the Whitakers asked the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to allow them to use embryo screening (PGD) to provide a bone marrow donor for their sick son. After their request was refused...
5 August 2002 - by BioNews 
A couple seeking embryo screening to provide a bone marrow donor for their sick son have been refused access to treatment by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Michelle and Jayson Whitaker want to use preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to have a baby who will be able to donate...
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