There is a significant gap between what is promised by the clinics driving stem cell tourism, and what is supported by scientific evidence. So, why are increasing numbers of Australians continuing to travel overseas to undergo expensive and potentially harmful treatments? That is what Professor Alan Petersen
of Monash University's School of Political and Social Inquiry, is aiming to find out.
In collaboration with Associate Professor Megan Munsie
of Stem Cells Australia and Professor Steven Wainwright of Brunei University, he will undertake the first sociological study of what shapes peoples' understandings and expectations of stem cell therapy (SCT) options abroad.
Professor Petersen believes that the regulatory and educational strategies employed to date may fail to stem the flow of SCT tourists because they underestimate the power of hope. "These patients obviously want an improvement in their quality of life or respite from suffering and are frustrated by the lack of progress in stem cell therapies in Australia. Hope is very powerful and tends to be nurtured by their communities and support networks. It helps people form their own conceptions of risk, despite the recommendations of medical professionals," Professor Petersen said.
The researchers will canvass the views of people who have undergone STCs overseas, or thought about doing so, as well as the views of medical professionals, policy-makers and regulators. In addition the advertising and practices of clinics driving stem cell tourism will be will be analysed.
This project is supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant.
Media coverage: Stem cell tourists living in hope: study
[Sunday Age, 14 April 2013