Stem cell tourism is a growing industry in which patients pursue unproven stem cell therapies for a wide variety of illnesses and conditions. It is a challenging market to regulate due to a number of factors including its international, online, direct-to-consumer approach. Calls to provide education and information to patients, their families, physicians, and the general public about the risks associated with stem cell tourism are mounting. Initial studies examining the perceptions of patients who have pursued stem cell tourism indicate many are highly critical of the research and regulatory systems in their home countries and believe them to be stagnant and unresponsive to patient needs. We suggest that educational material should include an explanation of the translational research process, in addition to other aspects of stem cell tourism, as one means to help promote greater understanding and, ideally, curb patient demand for unproven stem cell interventions. The material provided must stress that strong scientific research is required in order for therapies to be safe and have a greater chance at being effective. Through an analysis of educational material on stem cell tourism and translational stem cell research from patient groups and scientific societies, we describe essential elements that should be conveyed in educational material provided to patients. Although we support the broad dissemination of educational material on stem cell translational research, we also acknowledge that education may simply not be enough to engender patient and public trust in domestic research and regulatory systems. However, promoting patient autonomy by providing good quality information to patients so they can make better informed decisions is valuable in itself, irrespective of whether it serves as an effective deterrent of stem cell tourism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Issues, ethics and legal aspects
- Health Policy