Categorized | Featured, National News

Task Force On Stem Cell


In an effort to establish regulations for stem cell therapy and research in The Bahamas, Health Minister Dr. Perry Gomez has assigned a task force that will make recommendations to the government to set guidelines for the controversial practice.

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have the capacity to renew themselves and to differentiate into various cell types such as blood, muscle and nerve cells.

The cells can be taken from an embryo or adults.

When it comes to embryo stem cell research, the practice becomes controversial because the results come from a terminated pregnancy.

But Dr. Gomez said this type of research cannot be avoided.

“The main ethical and policy issues with stem cells concern the derivation and use of embryonic stem cells for research. To bypass this ethical controversy, alternative sources of pluripotent stem cells have been pursued, but embryonic stem cell research may remain necessary because there are some questions only embryonic stem cells have the potential to answer,” he said in a news conference at the Ministry of Health.

In 2009, the first Christie administration closed down a stem cell research centre after it was credited with curing two young American boys who had cerebral palsy.

The then Minister of Health Dr. Marcus Bethel said the reason for doing so was because stem cell research was not properly regulated in The Bahamas.

When asked why the government had a change of heart, Dr. Gomez indicated that it is time for change.

“Stem cell therapy is not the medicine of tomorrow, it is the medicine of today. I believe that because of what is happening. Science is moved on and it is clear from what is happening now in cardiology – they started with treating wealthy athletes who needed to get back to their sport,” he said.

“So for one who likes science and believes that science is the basis for all good medicine – that’s why we are looking at it. Perhaps it’s because I sit in this chair.”

The chairman of the task force is Cancer Centre Director Dr. Arthur Porter.

“Stem cell therapy is probably going to be the most important therapy for the next generation. How it is handled, how research is conducted, how applications are used are going to be extremely important. I think the Government of The Bahamas and the minister’s foresight in developing a committee like this to look at all of the ramifications both positive and potentially negative to develop a strategy of recommendations to the government to be able to pursue this form of therapy in this country is extremely important,” Dr. Porter said.

“There are many different issues that we will consider from the use of stem cells in research to the application in diseases, to the application in rejuvenation, but also the ethical consideration of where these stem cells arise.”

Other members of the task force include Director of the University of the West Indies School of Clinical Medicine Dr. Robin Roberts; Senior Cardiovascular Surgeon Dr. Duane Sands; Gynecologist, Dr. Paul Ward; Chief of Service at Rand Memorial Hospital Dr. Barrett McCartney; Senior Anaesthesiologist and Pain Specialist Dr. Indira Martin; Laboratory Research in the Ministry of Health Dr. Wesley Francis; President of Medical Association of The Bahamas Dr. Glen Beneby; Anglican Hospital Chaplin Reverend Angela Palacious and attorney Michelle Pindling-Sands.

According to medical experts, a stem cell procedure can cost anywhere between $30,000 and $50,000.

But, Dr. Sands believes this could inject life into medical tourism in the country.

“Medical tourism internationally is a huge, economic industry accounting for as much as $70 billion per year. And when you imagine the potential for medical tourism – the question is whether a new jurisdiction like The Bahamas can combine science with ethics and morality,” he said.

“We are interested in not getting sorted in the underbelly of the attraction of some of these products. But what we want to be is on the cutting edge of good science, ethical science in order to advance medical progress. I think The Bahamas sees itself in a very ambitious way. We want to ultimately lead the world in the development of this new industry.”

The task force has 60 days to make recommendations to the government.

After this, the government is expected to bring legislation to Parliament.

Just last month, leading Cardiologist and Found of The Bahamas Heart Centre Dr. Conville Brown conducted the country’s first cardiac stem cell procedure in The Bahamas.

Dr. Brown said he hopes to build a stem cell clinic at his Collins Avenue institution within the next six months.

Written by Jones Bahamas

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Watch JCN Channel 14 Shows

Jcn Channel 14

Sign in now to see your channels and recommendations!

Join Us on Facebook