Stem Cell Therapy Not Deserving of the ‘Experimental’ Label
In this era of softening the language so as not to offend people, it is surprising that so many in the medical field still refer to stem cell therapy as being ‘experimental’.
Anyone with a basic understanding of the history of stem cell research knows that the concept of utilizing stem cells for certain kinds of medical procedures is well studied.
Medical science has known the power and potential of stem cells for decades.
Along with calling stem cell therapy experimental, doctors who have performed stem cell procedures have been accused of performing experiments on their patients.
Those same patients have been referred to as ‘guinea pigs’.
The languageis both undeserving and very misleading.
Accusing the Doctor
If you need an example of how language can mislead the public in regard to stem cell therapy, look no further than former F1 champion Michael Schumacher.
The well-known racecar driver suffered a significant injury in a ski accident some six years ago. He has not been seen in public since.
Schumacher traveled to Paris in September to receive stem cell treatments from a doctor who is a respected member of the University of Alabama Birmingham and University of Paris Descartes faculties.
He is also considered a pioneer in the field of stem cell research.
As such, Dr. Philippe Menasche has taken personal offense to suggestions that he is using Schumacher as an experimental guinea pig.
He finds it professionally insulting to be questioned by medical and non-medical professionals alike who know nothing about stem cell research or the therapy he has provided Schumacher.
“I do not perform miracles,” Menasche said in a recent interview. “My team and I are not doing an experiment, an abominable term that is not in line with a serious medical view.”
Stem Cell Therapy Should not Be Different
So where does all the vitriol come from? From a small number of cases in which patients were harmed by doctors performing stem cell procedures outside of normal boundaries.
Such cases truly are tragic, but they are not indicative of the entire stem cell industry.
There are doctors who botch joint replacement surgeries.
Yet we do not treat joint replacement surgery as one grand experiment turning patients into little more than lab animals.
We don’t vilify all of oncology just because some patients die as a result of their treatment rather than the cancer itself.
So why do we treat stem cell procedures and the doctors who perform them differently?
Apex Biologix, a Utah company with years of experience in the regenerative medicine field, says that the vast majority of stem cell practitioners are ethical and responsible clinicians who would not even think of endangering their patients.
It’s the Patient’s Business
At the end of the day, it boils down to a decision between doctor and patient.
It is Michael Schumacher’s business if he gets stem cell treatments, and no one else’s. As long as his doctor is treating him in a way that is safe and within the boundaries of the law, it should not matter to anyone else whether or not the treatments achieve the desired goal.
In the U.S., the FDA allows the use of autologous, minimally manipulated stem cell material for the treatment of certain kinds of issues, including orthopedic injuries and osteoarthritis.
The procedures have FDA approval because they have been deemed safe.
As for efficacy, that is no one’s business other than the patient and his or her doctor.
Perhaps it’s time we refrained from calling stem cell therapy experimental.
The term is misleading and potentially inflammatory.