By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
FREEPORT – A properly administered and monitored stem cell research and therapy industry could prove to be a win-win for the Bahamas, a well-known clergyman believes.
Rev Dr Emmette Weir said there are significant benefits to be gained from both a medical and economic perspective.
While speaking at the STEMSO Conference in Freeport on the topic, ‘The challenge of the operation of Stem Cell Research and Therapy in the Bahamas today,’ Rev Weir said the two controversial areas of stem cells, which go against the teachings of the Bible, are embryonic cell research and therapy, and cloning.
Rev Weir said Autologous or Adult Stem Cell research and therapy is more acceptable, since it involves the use of one’s own stem cells to treat your own ailment.
“There can be no doubt that embryonic stem cell research and therapy (theextraction of stem cells from a human embryo for therapeutic procedures) raises serious ethical concerns,” he said.
“If embryonic stem cell research and therapy raises major ethical concerns, then cloning brings up ethical and moral considerations which are much more deeper and highly controversial.”
Cloning involves the reproduction of the exact replica of a particular cell. While it has proven successful in the case of animals, Rev Weir said it raises very serious ethical and theological concerns when applied to human beings.
Since Bahamian legislation prohibits embryonic stem cell research and therapy, and cloning, Dr Weir strongly believes the law can provide the legal framework for a successful stem cell industry.
He indicated that with proper legislation in place, it would be possible to carry out advancced research on stem cell therapy in the Bahamas - well ahead of the US.
The Bahamas’ proximity to the US, Rev Weir added, was a major advantage.
“The Bahamas can become a major centre for stem cell research and therapy. This means that major facilities for research and treatment can be established, resulting in greatly increased employment at all levels and the rapid expansion of medical tourism,” he said.
Rev Weir added that highly-trained medical professionals, as well as Bahamians serving in top posts in medical institutions in the US, would be attracted to the Bahamas.
In addition to the creation of jobs in the medical field, Rev Weir said hundreds of posts would become available in the construction industry.
He added that the development of medical tourism would be beneficial to Freeport. “It can, indeed, help to jumpstart the sluggish Freeport economy,” he added.
The clergyman said stem cell therapy can help the treatment of diabetes, heart disease, diseases of the blood, kidney disease, and cancer.
“There are, therefore, enormous, nearly mind boggling benefits to be derived from a properly administered and monitored stem cell research and therapy operation in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas today,” Rev Weir said.
“The benefits of having a stem cell and therapy industry are great indeed – many jobs, fame as a medical research and therapy centre, growth in medical tourism, and amazing new medical techniques for the benefit of visitors and Bahamians. But this opportunity can only be of a long-term benefit if such stem cell research and therapy is most strictly monitored.”
Rev Weir believes the Bahamas should move forward to take advantage of the ‘window of opportunity’ available by being ahead of the US in stem cell research and therapy.
He is a Methodist Minister who serves as a voluntary chaplain at the Rand Memorial Hospital.
The STEMSO Conference in Freeport attracted about 100 medical professionals and scientists from around the world. The three-day conference closed out on Saturday, February 22.