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Views & Reviews Review of the Week

A tale of blind faith

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 20 May 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2069
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

    Nigel Hawkes reviews a television documentary highlighting how patients are paying heavily for unproved stem cell therapy in the private sector

    “Always too eager for the future, we / Pick up bad habits of expectancy,” wrote Philip Larkin in a poem that explores people’s preference for the promises of tomorrow over today’s humdrum reality. Nowhere is this truer than in health care, where the belief that a miracle treatment is just around the corner has the public by the throat. Scientists competing for grants, and journalists for headlines, keep this belief alive through every disappointment.

    The victims are those who are seduced to travel the world in search of a cure, usually paying heavily for the privilege. Panorama followed Darren and Wilma Clarke and their daughter Dakota from Belfast to Qingdao, on the northeast coast of China, where she was to undergo stem cell treatment for a congenital condition. Like thousands of others who have made the same pilgrimage, the Clarkes had raised tens of thousands of pounds to pay for the treatment at a clinic run by Beike Biotechnology.

    Dakota Clarke, who is 3 …

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