By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
FNM deputy chairman Duane Sands yesterday cautioned Bahamians not to dismiss stem cell therapy just because of the controversy over whether Peter Nygard influenced the government’s decision to allow the research.
He said it is important that the public focus on the facts and educate themselves about stem cell research’s possible benefits for the economy.
Dr Sands stressed that a properly regulated stem cell industry can position the Bahamas as a medical tourism hub.
In the United States, stem cell therapy is a trillion dollar industry.
Dr Sands said: “Using adult stem cells has been found to be effective in the treatment of arthritis and some spinal cord injuries among other things. Bone marrow transplantation is also a form of stem cell therapy which has been working for some time.”
He wants legislators to carefully consider how the industry will be regulated and also look at forms of unethical stem cell therapy in order to ensure that the Bahamas is not a haven for those practices.
“Off shore jurisdictions will need to set themselves up to cater to the needs of Americans and we need to exploit our location by providing high quality ethical medical care.
“What we need to do is to ask the question what are the advantages for the reputation of the Bahamas and its development.
“Unfortunately there are a lot of quacks praying on the public and saying that this will treat every problem that you can possibly have and there are gullible people who will feed into that.”
In the meantime, he said, Bahamians ought to consider that stem cell therapy will also stimulate the job market.
“Right now as a Bahamian scientist, what is there left for you to do? You go and teach at a school.
“There are only a few labs where they can work, so this would serve young Bahamians well.
“If we are bold and visionary enough, we can position the Bahamas to be a scientific powerhouse and create opportunities for budding Bahamian scientists.
“But we think so little of ourselves and our young people that we refuse to put in place the tools for that to happen.
“If we create that kind of environment in the Bahamas we can change that entirely,” Dr Sands said.