THE EDITOR, Sir:
The Medical Council has taken note of the discussion in the press regarding stem cell research. Council has also noted that Dr Janice Simmonds-Fisher, in her article published on December 4, 2013 in The Gleaner, has stated that the Medical Council of Jamaica has given approval and its blessings to this form of therapy.
The council wishes to state that its response to Dr Simmonds-Fisher's letter informing it of her intention to establish a facility for stem cell therapy should in no way be interpreted as its approval and blessing. The council's response acknowledged receipt of her letter, wished her success in the new initiative, and stated that it looked forward to hearing of her progress.
The council is pleased that this research is aimed at benefiting patients with disease processes which are at present still challenging, and for which a cure is yet to be established. It must be noted that stem cell research is still in the experimental stage worldwide and, therefore, it is misleading to suggest that Jamaicans may currently be treated safely using stem cells from their own bodies.
We, therefore, wish to remind members of the public that these procedures are undergoing Stage Three clinical trials which, therefore, mean that they are not recognised as being safe to be offered as routine treatment of disease processes. Stage Three trials involve an evaluation of the purity, effectiveness and safety of the agent on large groups of persons with the particular disease. It must be noted that only if the agent proves to be safe and effective in those persons will it move on to Stage Four - general market availability.
The council is in support of the stem cell research agenda being undertaken and looks forward to disclosure of the findings when they become available.
Persons considering participation as recipients of this form of therapy are being strongly urged to first have full discussions on the pros and cons of embarking on such procedures with their medical provider.
HOWARD SPENCER (Prof)
Registrar, Medical Council of Jamaica