The stem cell scam for patients with premature ovarian failure
Posted Dec 11 2012 8:55pm
Patients with ovarian failure can be quite desperate to have a baby. While many of them understand that their only medical treatment option would be to use donor eggs , a lot of them are not willing to consider this alternative . For some patients, it's a question of their religious beliefs and many Muslim patients will not accept donor eggs , because they feel it is against their religious principles to do so. Because they're so desperate , they often become easy targets for unscrupulous doctors , and I recently came across a patient who had been scammed by a so-called stem cell expert.
She had had premature ovarian failure for many years and had traveled all over the world in order to explore her treatment options. Doctors in the US and UK had told her that her only choice would be to use donor eggs but this was an option that she was not prepared to consider under any circumstances . When she heard about stem cell therapy , she traveled all the way to India in order to see whether this particular treatment would be useful for her. She found a doctor who promised to help her. She extracted a lot of money from her, injected embryonic stem cells in her blood; and told her that these stem cells would magically travel to her ovaries where they would transform themselves into eggs, so that she could then have a baby with her own eggs ! ( There are so many holes in this "treatment", that it's hard to know where to begin ! It amazes me how easy it is for doctors to take advantage of patients ).
This patient was so desperate , that she fell hook, line and sinker for this cleverly crafted story, which is not backed by an iota of scientific evidence . It is true that researchers are working on creating ovarian germ cells from stem cells in animal models, but we still have a very very long way to go before we can provide this as a clinical treatment option . Sadly, there’s been so much hype about stem cells being the magical answer to all possible ills, that patients are very easily fooled !
In order to prove that her stem cell therapy was working, the doctor advised her to do ultrasound scans a few weeks after taking the stem cell injection. She told her that she now had follicles in her ovaries, whereas previously there had been no follicles at all. She offered this as evidence of the fact that her stem cell therapy had worked a miracle ; and that she could now go ahead and do IVF, so that she could have a baby with her own eggs !
It breaks my heart when I see patients being cheated in this way. Unfortunately, when patients are so desperate , there will always be some doctors who are willing to take advantage of their gullibility. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be any mechanism to prevent this kind of malpractice. It is especially patients who have diseases for which modern medicine has no answer , who are particularly likely to fall prey to the false promises and sweet words of these hucksters , who just end up giving medicine a bad reputation.