Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE: Selling stem cells: a need to reconcile hype, hope and evidence

09 September 2015

9 September 2015 (Melbourne): A public forum at the Melbourne Brain Centre will focus on community expectations in stem cell science, with a Monash academic and international expert leading the discussions.

The forum, ‘Selling stem cells: the need to reconcile hype, hope & evidence’ will discuss the issue of unproven stem cell treatments and how Australian patients with a range of debilitating conditions are travelling overseas in the hope of improving their health. The discussion is free to attend and hosted by Stem Cells Australia, a seven-year ARC Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science launched in 2011 of which Monash is partner.

The talks will examine the role of hype, hope, risk, cost and evidence in patients’ decisions about whether or not to undergo risky stem cell procedures. Clinics and hospitals around the world are marketing stem cell treatments on the internet for various conditions, including multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury and muscular degeneration.  Discussion will highlight the anticipation and experiences of Australians who have received stem cell treatment, or have contemplated doing so.

Heading the discussion will be Monash academic Professor Alan Petersen and Professor Timothy Caulfield, a Canadian Research Chair in Health Law and Policy. The event will be hosted by Associate Professor Megan Munsie, from the University of Melbourne. Professor Munsie is the head of the Education, Ethics, Law and Community Awareness Unit at Stem Cells Australia and holds an adjunct appointment with Monash.

Professor Petersen works in the School of Social Sciences and has researched technological innovations in medicine for over two decades. He is the author of Hope in Health: The Socio-Politics of Optimism, which centers on the exploitation of consumers by advertisers offering hope for a range of medical conditions. Professor Petersen’s research covers the sociology of biomedical technologies, the sociology of public health, and various other topics.   

Professor Timothy Caulfield is another expert on stem cell tourism. His most recent book ‘Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash’ looks at the influence of celebrities in medicine, dispelling the various health care myths stars communicate to the general public. Professor Caulfield has been involved in a number of interdisciplinary projects exploring the ethical, legal and health policy issues associated with topics such as stem cell research, genetics and patient safety. His research on stem cell tourism looks at the marketing techniques providers use to sell procedures. Professor Caulfield is currently Research Director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta in Canada.  

Selling stem cells: the need to reconcile hype, hope & evidence’ will be held on 10 September at 5pm at the Melbourne Brain Centre, located at the University of Melbourne. RSVP is essential via Eventbrite.

About Stem Cells Australia:
Stem Cells Australia is an Australian Research Council funded Special Research Initiative, bringing together Australia’s premier life scientists to address the big questions in stem cell science. Stem Cells Australia was established in 2011 by The University of Melbourne, University of Queensland, Monash University, University of NSW, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

For more information, please contact: Megan Munsie, Stem Cells Australia

M:+61 417 585 621 E:megan.munsie@unimelb.edu.au