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Does the Latest Stem Cell Success Foreshadow Future Funding Failures in U.S.?

It was reported last week that, for the first time, surgeons in the U.K. have successfully treated an extremely ill heart patient with a combination of an artificial heart and his own stem cells.  The patient was fitted with a mechanical pump and then injected with 6 million of his own stem cells, in hope that those cells would repair damage in the patient’s heart.

This success raises questions for us in the United States.  First, why are embryonic stem cell advocates – and the President and his administration – still pushing for destructive research that has yet to successfully treat a single human person, while ignoring the need for substantial funding of adult stem cell research?  Once again, AUL is here to point out that adult stem cells have been used to treat or cure patients with over 70 different diseases and conditions, while there have been absolutely no successes with embryonic stem cell research.  We’re starting to feel like a broken record.

Yet the message is still not getting across.  To date, only sixteen states promote or encourage the use of umbilical cord cells and/or other forms of adult stem cells for research.

But an underlying question is also raised, one that is timely as we wait to find out what kind of health care we will be left with once the federal government takes over.

In relaying the patient’s story, Sky News reported that NHS in the U.K. will not pay for this life-saving treatment.  Instead, the patient said he “relies on charity funding””or travels abroad to implant pumps in countries where governments are prepared to fund the £60,000 devices.”

Interesting.  This patient, in a country with nationalized healthcare that is the predecessor to what President Obama is seeking for the United States, has to travel outside of the U.K. to other countries that are willing to pay for his treatment.

The surgeon himself stated, “I am very frustrated that all the work that I have done back home in the UK has to be translated into patient care in other countries,” and “”[w]e have helped to develop implantation programmes in France, Greece and Japan. It’s time we did it in the UK.”

He believes that this treatment protocol for heart patients could save 12,000 patients each year.

The article continues:

The Greek government has recently agreed to fund pumps for some patients with serious heart failure.

Professor Papakonstantinou [a heart surgeon at the Ahepa University Hospital in Thessaloniki] said they offer good value for money because patients are able to leave hospital and do not need drug treatment.

But in Britain, the NHS will only fund pumps in transplant patients who are waiting for a donor heart. Around 100 a year are implanted.

In a statement, the Department of Health said: “Before making such technology more widely available as an indefinite long-term treatment in end-stage heart failure, the NHS needs to ensure there is clear evidence of benefit.

Apparently 11,900 extra lives saved isn’t a clear enough benefit.
I’m not sure this is what most Americans have in mind when they think “health reform.”

The article from Sky News can be viewed at http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Health/Artificial-Heart-And-Stem-Cells-Save-Mans-Life-In-Pioneering-Surgery-By-British-Surgeon/Article/200909415387553?lpos=Health_Second_UK_News_Article_Teaser_Region_0&lid=ARTICLE_15387553_Artificial_Heart_And_Stem_Cells_Save_Mans_Life_In_Pioneering_Surgery_By_British_Surgeon