We at Stemblog have decided to weigh in on the medical tourism issue, which is fueled by the lack of adequate curative treatments available in the US for many of the 100 million Americans who suffer deadly or chronic medical conditions. As this doctor says on the hope that stem cells injected into the spinal cord area will morph into the specific cell type needed to heal the damage:
“There is some evidence that this occurs in animal models,” Magnuson said. “There is some basis for this. It’s just not proven to work in humans.”
So should we wait or not, to try and improve our lives?
First, I want to caution that just because something has been “proven”, doesn’t necessarily mean it works, or that it doesn’t have any undesirable side effects.
A prime example is the common use of methylprednisolone for acute spinal cord injuries, which initially was hailed as a medical breakthrough in the treatment of spinal cord injury, but in follow-up studies by others was found to be completely ineffective, with possible dangerous side effrects.
You can easily see that it’s equally important to realize that there are huge dangers in legitimizing “proven” treatments that later turn out to have no value whatsoever.
Canada has therefor discontinued the use of methylprednisolone altogether in spinal cord injuries.
At the same time the cooling saline IV treatment that NFL player Kevin Everett received and which “has a very robust and powerful effect” known since the early 1980s to prevent neurological damage remains underutilized, which I find unconcionable. Even though guidelines STILL don’t call for this treatment, because it hasn’t officially been “proven”, one doctor says this about the lack of its use: “We wouldn’t consider it ethical now to withhold that [because] we’ve shown it’s useful.”
For the medical establishment to wait is cruel and unacceptable in this case.
Now, let’s see what you might want to take into account as you make YOUR decision to proceed with currently available ADULT stem cell treatments overseas, or to wait for some better stem cell treatments to come along from continued stem cell research. Only one embryonic stem cell treatment is offered overseas. The more common Umbilical cord stem cell treatments are considered ADULT stem cell treatments as the stem cells are obtained after birth.
Most of all we want to caution those who are considering overseas’ stem cell treatments, NOT to expect MAJOR improvements. Realistically there aren’t any stem cell treatments available yet, even overseas, that can lead to MAJOR improvements.
However if minor to moderate improvements could mean a significant difference in your life, or if you are suffering a deadly condition, it seems reasonable to give these treatments a try, provided they don’t have harmful side effects, and you have the financial resources and emotional strength to handle a possible disappointment in the results.
Keep in mind that, even though minor improvements do seem to be the norm, some will experience no change at all.
On a personal note: though my son(17) ( who became paralyzed at age 7 after colliding with another soccer player) and I have engaged in medical tourism from 1997 to 2005, we have yet to try any of the stem cell treatments overseas. Our most recent trip in 2005 was to France for laseracupuncture. Our first trip was to the island of Cyprus in 1997 for amino-acid treatments as developed by the russian Primavera clinic.
So far we’ve drawn the line at anything invasive like surgery, but might consider repeated stem cell injections if more major improvements are consistently seen.
By: Faye @ stemblog.net