Generalizations Are Hurting the Stem Cell Debate

Run a Google search on 'stem cell therapy for chronic pain treatment' and you will see a litany of results covering just about every view in the current debate over the efficacy of stem cell therapy. This debate has been raging for years. Moreover, there is no end in sight.

The thing about debate is that it's good – especially in the sciences. Debate is the fuel of research and innovation. It is what keeps charlatans honest and prevents those in the know from becoming complacent. But in the current debate surrounding stem cell therapy, there is something poisoning the waters: generalizations.

There is a good chance that most of the articles you would come across in the aforementioned Google search would contain at least one or two overly general statements. Some of those articles would be nothing more than one big generalization with a few random facts thrown in for effect.

Generalizations are not good fodder for debate. In fact, they are detrimental to the debate over stem cell efficacy because they create unrealistic thoughts and ideas in the minds of observers. Everyone involved in the stem cell debate would do well to avoid generalizations.

Medicine Is Patient-Specific

Doctors who train with the Utah-based Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) are trained in the practical aspects of PRP and stem cell therapies. They learn about procedures, efficacy, etc. in order to be able to properly apply regenerative medicine to those patients who might benefit from it. The one thing they don't do is deal in generalizations.

Are ARMI trainees surprised by the lack of generalizations? No; or at least they should not be. Doctors know enough to understand that medicine is patient-specific. What works for one patient may work less effectively for another, or not at all. Generalizations do not serve doctors or their patients well. As such, they have no place in the debate over stem cell efficacy.

Negative Generalizations

Generalizations surrounding stem cell therapy run the gamut from the overly optimistic to the hyper negative. On the negative side, it is easy to make a blanket statement suggesting that each of the hundreds of for-profit stem cell clinics around the country are offering untested, unproven, and potentially dangerous procedures. That may be true for some clinics, but it's certainly not true for all.

Another negative generalization is that patients are spending thousands of dollars on treatments that do not work. This generalization is based on two common misconceptions: that there isn't any clinical data suggesting the efficacy of stem cell treatment and that anecdotal evidence is not worthy of consideration.

Positive Generalizations

For every negative generalization there is a positive one countering it. You might even make the case that it is the positive generalizations that are spurring so much negative backlash among critics of stem cell therapy. For example, there are stem cell proponents who make statements suggesting that just about everyone who undergoes stem cell treatment for pain management will find relief. It's not true.

We also know that positive generalizations have led to some clinics offering procedures that have no business in modern medicine. They promise stem cells are a miracle cure for everything that ails you, knowing full well that this is not true either.

Stem cell therapy, along with the rest of regenerative medicine, has a place at the medical science table. Stem cell treatments have their proper place in treating certain kinds of injuries and diseases. Wouldn't it be better if everyone involved in the debate would recognize those two simple facts and work outward from there, avoiding the generalizations along the way?