Friday, May 14, 2010

Stem Cell Tourism

Stem cell therapy promises much hope to patients but there are very few proven and approved stem cell therapies at present. However, that do not stop some enterprising persons from setting up stem cells therapies centres and offering these treatments. I know of a few centres in Kuala Lumpur who offers such therapies. They have anecdotal evidence that they have 'cured' Down's syndome and cerebral palsy. My caution to parents who asked me about these stem cell therapies is that it is unproven and not acceptable as a therapy by modern medical care.

This is one of the articles from The American Journal of Bioethics. The May issue focus on stem cell therapy and stem cell tourism. It looks like transplant tourism now has a related sister.

Stem Cell Tourism and Doctors' Duties to Minors—A View From Canada
by Amy Zarzeczny, Timothy Caulfield
2010. The American Journal of Bioethics 10(5):3

While the clinical promise of much stem cell research remains largely theoretical, patients are nonetheless pursuing unproven stem cell therapies in jurisdictions around the world—a phenomenon referred to as “stem cell tourism.” These treatments are generally advertised on a direct-to-consumer basis via the Internet. Research shows portrayals of stem cell medicine on such websites are overly optimistic and the claims made are unsubstantiated by published evidence. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that parents are pursing these “treatments” for their children, despite potential physical and financial risk. Physicians are in a unique position as they can be expected to be involved in, or privy to, such decisions. In this paper, we consider what duties physicians may have toward minor patients whose parents/guardians wish to engage in stem cell tourism on their behalf. We use the Canadian perspective to address the broadly relevant issues raised by this trend.


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