Saturday, July 6, 2013

Ethical stem cell research and therapy “holds tremendous potential for The Bahamas”, says Free National Movement's deputy chairman - Dr. Duane Sands

Sands backs stem cell bill

Calls proposed law ‘progressive’

By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter

A day after Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis blasted the government for “rushing” stem cell legislation through Parliament, his party’s deputy chairman Dr. Duane Sands said the proposed law is “progressive”.

Sands stressed that he was not trying to publically disagree with Minnis. He said Minnis had questioned whether the country could properly enforce laws governing stem cell research and therapy.

Sands added that ethical stem cell research and therapy “holds tremendous potential for The Bahamas”.

Sands was a member of a government-appointed task force that reviewed the stem cell issue and presented recommendations on how the procedures could be developed in the country. Those recommendations were instrumental in the drafting of the law.

“I think that what Dr. Minnis was suggesting was that he had no issues with stem cell work, but he wanted to express his concerns that the

enforcement of laws in the country be upgraded accordingly,” said Sands said when asked yesterday what he thought of Minnis’ opposition to the stem cell bill in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.

“I guess in his view, he thought this was equivalent to opening a Pandora’s box. As a member of the task force, I think that we sought to make recommendations to the government to minimize any potential exposure or risk to The Bahamas and the position of the task force was a very comprehensive, very considered position.”

On Wednesday, Minnis cautioned the government against “rushing” forward with the law.

“I ask the government, if they truly believe in this Bahamas, to not embark on this ill-advised adventure into stem cell research where we know we do not have the enforcement,” Minnis said.

He said the country could face being blacklisted or be targeted by unscrupulous scientists who would take advantage of The Bahamas’ lack of experience and inability to stringently enforce laws, even minor ones.

“I do not believe that we are yet in a position to adequately police this research and to ensure the maintenance of international standards,” Minnis said.

The argument drew criticism from several MPs from the government’s side, who berated Minnis for opposing the bill.

Minnis also suggested that the government was pushing the law to appease Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard, who he claimed is a financial backer for some members of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).

Some government MPs also strongly denied these claims.

There have been some concerns expressed that stem cell research and therapy would be hijacked by mad scientists with unscrupulous motives and should not be allowed.

Sands downplayed that concern and said it should not deter the country from benefiting from medical tourism brought on by stem cell research and therapy.

“There will always be charlatans, snake oil salesmen trying to take advantage of anything,” Sands said.

“If there is somebody who is interested in cloning somebody, they are not going be stopped by legislation. There are laws against murder, there are laws against car theft, there are laws against incest. Legislation will not stop people from doing things.

“This legislation is intended to strengthen the controls in The Bahamas for this particular area of medicine.”

During debate on the bill on Wednesday, Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez said the bill would place strict limitations on the practice to prevent human reproduction.

July 05, 2013