Stem cell research has been developing for decades and shows promise of providing cures for serious diseases and ailments. To date, placental and umbilical cord stem cell treatment has been proven effective at treating leukemia and certain blood diseases. These treatments have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
However, a new, unapproved form of stem cell treatment has exploded in recent years. Independent stem cell clinics have been popping up all across the country. There are over 700 such clinics in the U.S., with an average of 150 new clinics opening each year over the past four years. The clinics, which are often run by plastic surgeons, provide direct-to-consumer treatments, which are expensive and uncovered by insurance. In addition to sending many patients into debt, the treatments have also been known to cause serious harm.
What is adult stem cell treatment?
The treatment such clinics offer differs from the type that has been federally approved. It takes adult stem cells from a patient’s fat (liposuction) and transplants them into another area of the same individual’s body. The theory is that the stem cells will help to promote regeneration in the problem area.
What is the problem?
The procedure has not been rigorously tested and is not considered safe in the eyes of the FDA and stem cell researchers. Many experts consider such treatments—which are conducted without any warnings to their patients—to be an unethical exercise in human experimentation.
In one clinic in Georgia, for instance, a woman received fatty injections into her eyes to treat macular degeneration. She was told the cells were “liquid gold” and would help to renew her vision. Within weeks, the retinas in both her eyes completely detached and she became permanently blind. She is suing the clinic for negligence.
In addition, these independent stem cell clinics put medically sound stem cell treatments in jeopardy. While scientists agree that stem cell treatment is a legitimate field that has the potential to cure human ailments, they warn that in many areas, the research is not far enough along and methods have not yet been proven effective. They contend that the rise of such clinics across the country is not only careless, it’s discrediting what could prove to be an extremely effective medical treatment.
If you or a loved one has suffered harm from treatments at an independent stem cell clinic, you may have a case for medical malpractice and could be entitled to compensation. It’s worth consulting with an experienced attorney to understand your options.