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Stem Cell Tourism – A Scam or Frontier Science?

stem cell

This paints a picture of a scam being propagated using the desperation and hope of people who are willing to try anything to help themselves or their loved ones. “One thing you can be guaranteed is that these places will tell you exactly what you want to hear” says Dr. Andrew Fergusson of the Christian Medical Fellowship, an international union of doctors and academics committed to ethical medical treatment that abides by Christian values. “Clinics like these are using patients as Human Guinea Pigs to test and assess their treatments…they all want to break into the US market but their treatments are not recognised, yet anyway.”

Dr. J, who does not want to be named and runs such a clinic, said that the only reason he operates in Central America is because the regulation in the USA prevents him from getting any funding. “My research has shown real progress and has definite human applications for diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver, but I have been denied funding because I have not done enough clinical trials…its stifling medical progress and costing lives”.

Views of People Who Have Been To a Clinic

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Paul is a 35-year old who suffers from multiple sclerosis, a condition that involves the break-down of the myelin sheaths on neurons in the brain, slowing nerve impulse conduction. He went to a clinic in China for treatment and he stands by it. “I went there wanting to die and left feeling hopeful for the future...I didn’t see an immediate effect but soon I could walk more easily and felt like myself again.” Although Paul’s story is heart-warming and raises hope about the potential of these clinics, his is just one side of the story.

Anya took her four-year old daughter to a clinic in Central America for treatment for cerebral palsy, a condition that can be massively debilitating. She paid almost an hundred thousand dollars for treatment over the course of six months and was told that there was a 95% chance of success. Four months after returning to Europe, her daughter’s condition worsened and made her quality of life even poorer. She tried to claim a refund but the clinic refused, saying that there is always an element of doubt with those sorts of procedures. “They took my money so easily but when I truly needed their help they turned a blind eye…I felt that I had been tricked.”

Stem cell treatment is still in its infancy and some clinics are trying to push the boundaries of science to find a cure. Whether this is for financial gain or an act of philanthropy is yet to be seen. But the best advice is given by Professor Anthony Hollander, who was involved with the world’s first successful transplant using a stem cell-derived organ. “If you feel you need to go to these clinics then please consider all the alternatives and research all available treatments and what they involve, only that way you can be sure that you have all the answers to make the best decision.”

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