Victorians desperate for a cure are travelling to China to undergo radical treatment in which doctors use stem cells from aborted foetuses.
They are luring people into paying $US20,000 ($A26,000) to the Wanjie Hospital in the seaside town of Qindao to undergo the procedure, known as olfactory-ensheathing cell transplantation (OEC treatment).
Dr Joe Toscano, who had a patient wanting to travel to China for the treatment against his wishes, said the Chinese had a “very good, slick marketing scheme on the internet where they are bringing people across for stem cell surgery.
“It’s a good way to empty people’s pockets, offering false hope,” he said.
“There’s really nothing worse than false hope for people who’ve got severe disability but obviously it’s a decision for the person involved.
A lot of people are basically losing a lot of hard-earned money.
“It is a big market, a very lucrative market, taking money from people who really need those assets for their own care. It would involve tens of millions of dollars.”
“Look, they’re disappointed in the end at the results but at least they gave it a go.
“I’m not saying that stem-cell therapy may not hold the key, but if anybody had a key for paralysis I can assure you they’d have the Nobel Prize.”
In Australia, laws allow stem-cell research only on existing human embryos created during IVF procedures.
A conscience vote on lifting the ban on therapeutic cloning — a laboratory procedure that involves taking the nucleus of a human cell and injecting it into a modified egg to create an embryo from which embryonic stem cells can be extracted — will soon be held in Federal Parliament.
More than 18,000 Australians are estimated to have spinal cord injuries, with injuries occurring at the rate of one a day.