Bahamas to review stem cell stance

Bahamas Minister of Health, Dr. Perry Gomez.

NASSAU — Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez has appointed a task force to produce recommendations for the regulation of stem cell therapy, which was banned in The Bahamas by the Christie administration a few years ago.

Gomez said the increasingly popular and effective medical procedures, once fully implemented in The Bahamas, could enhance medical tourism.

Dr. Duane Sands, a cardiovascular surgeon and member of the task force, said The Bahamas could become a premier destination for stem cell therapy.

“We want to ultimately lead the world in the development of this new industry,” said Sands at a press conference at the Ministry of Health yesterday.

“Bear in mind that the United States has had some challenges in part due to the political proclamations of George W. Bush that slowed down stem cell research.

“So there are opportunities and if it is done right, done ethically and done with real attention to the moral implications, The Bahamas and the Bahamian people can not only accrue some benefits, but we can advance medicine in the world.”

Sands noted that medical tourism internationally is a huge industry. He said it accounts for as much as $70 billion per year.

“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.

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.

Under the former Christie administration, then Minister of Health Dr. Marcus Bethel halted stem cell procedures at the Immuno-Augmentative Therapy clinic in Freeport, saying it had not secured the necessary approvals to engage in such research in 2004. (Nassau Guardian)

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