Court Orders Biocord to Safeguard Clients’ Blood Samples

Firm threatened thousands of customers that unless they forked over NIS 1,000 in 'membership dues', their blood would thaw.

The Tel Aviv District Court issued the umbilical cord blood bank Biocord also known as LifeBank and its owner Miki Shacham a temporary restraining order on Friday, requiring that it safeguard the blood samples in the company’s possession.

The move follows an alleged implied threat to thousands of customers that electricity to the freezers storing the samples will be cut off, resulting in the blood’s destruction, if they don’t pay the company NIS 1,000 in “membership dues” immediately.

Shacham reportedly wrote customers recently insisting that the Health Ministry’s order to transfer the blood to other blood banks within 30 days isn’t feasible and that they have just two options: transferring their samples to another blood bank themselves, an act that could presumably put the blood at risk, or joining a customers’ association under his initiative which would require a further NIS 1,000 payment.

On the possibility the electricity flow to the freezers containing the blood samples will be cut off, Shacham said “we’ll physically resist this,” but added at the same time: “This could this be caused, heaven forbid, by a party over whose actions Biocord has no control, like a shutdown in the steady and constant supply of liquid nitrogen to the freezers.”

In light of customers’ increasing concern that their children’s blood samples could be irreversibly damaged, the Health Ministry petitioned the district court on Friday for an injunction against the company to comply with its order from two weeks ago to transfer the blood samples. The ministry asked the court to order the company to locate, without delay, another party capable and legally licensed to maintain the bank of umbilical blood samples and transfer the samples there. It also asked for the temporary restraining order preventing the company and its management from allowing any damage to the blood samples.

The ministry also deemed a “veiled threat” allegations that Shacham has purportedly contacted clients telling them that if they did not join his initiative, they ran the risk that electricity and nitrogen supplies would be cut off to their samples without notice.”It is clear to everyone,” the ministry told the court, “that that damage that would be caused if the blood samples were destroyed could not be [addressed] by any monetary compensation.” “We aren’t aware of the request for an injunction purportedly submitted on Friday,” responded Shacham. “However, we are aware of the request for an issuance of a restraining order. It should be stated that everything included in the order was being always done by us anyhow, and now too, and will continue to be done as long as the remaining company resources still permit.”

The Health Ministry claims Shacham and Biocord “have avoided until now acting in accordance with our instructions. Notices to customers were sent out as required, and they avoided acting to find another appropriate operator for the bank.”

Ofer Vaknin