Why I Hate Stem Cells

“Can’t we try giving him stem cells?” “What about essential oils?” “I was watching Dr. Oz…”

Desperate families often ask me for medical miracles, in a variety of guises. They’ve heard just enough about stem cells to think they cure everything. Those more distrusting of Western medicine turn to alternative therapies when the body has exhausted its limits. But no, the oils will not accomplish what the chemo could not and you can’t just pop in a few stem cells and fix everything. Their desperation starts with the slow decline of a loved one. If a caring physician walks them through the medical pathophysiology of disease and translates the newest research into plain English, their fears might be replaced with reasonable expectations and a valid treatment plan. Instead, the internet pours gasoline onto the fire. 

The internet and its treasure trove of pseudoscience websites feeds their misplaced hopes. Dr. Oz and his ilk hype unproven supplements while conspiracy theorists claim big pharma is hiding the cure to cancer. Who fights against the news pollution on the internet? Most doctors flee from social media, either from a lack of familiarity or the belief that it’s no place for a physician. If we don’t speak out on social media, if we don’t have our own websites to provide quality content, who will? Without physicians contributing accurate scientific information and translating it for lay people, what will most people read instead? Garbage. 

And so patients continue to go online, searching for any scrap of hope in the form of an outlandish and unproven cure. Can we blame them for believing in magical stem cells when we have given them so few alternative sources of reliable data? I implore any reasonable physician willing to devote even a few minutes of time to establish an online presence. State your opinion on the controversies in your specialty. Comment on supplements and alternative therapies. Give the world something to read other than drivel and hype. Otherwise, we must accept that fact the patients will continue to believe what they read and right now they’re reading fairy tales. 

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Cathy Carroll MD

Catherine Carroll, MD, CFA is an internist in Southern California. She grew up in North Carolina then moved to Massachusetts where she earned her Bachelor’s in Economics. After becoming a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) and finishing a Master’s in Global Financial Analysis, she went on to work in equity analysis for a money management firm in Boston. She then embarked on a second career in medicine, graduating from UC Davis with her MD and completing her Internal Medicine residency at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose. When not caring for patients, Dr. Carroll is a real estate investor, as well as the author of PhysicianTycoon.com and LocumSociety.org, where she endeavors to teach physicians about alternative career paths and personal finance. 

  3 comments for “Why I Hate Stem Cells

  1. Sir Lance-a-lot
    May 31, 2019 at 11:05 pm

    “I implore any reasonable physician willing to devote even a few minutes of time to establish an online presence. State your opinion on the controversies in your specialty. Comment on supplements and alternative therapies.”

    No way José. I’d rather keep my miserable job, such as it is, than be fired for “embarrassing the organization.”

    And I’d rather not lose whatever last scrap of professional dignity I have by making myself a punching bag for ingnorami.

    If that means the whole of Medicine will go to Hell, then so be it – when it goes, there will be few of us left anymore who will miss it.

  2. Dave Mittman, PA
    May 31, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    In Florida MDs are the face of stem cells. Not sure who owns the shops?
    Much credibility.

  3. RSW
    May 31, 2019 at 8:49 am

    “I implore any reasonable physician willing to devote even a few minutes of time to establish an online presence. State your opinion on the controversies in your specialty. Comment on supplements and alternative therapies.”

    Sorry, but won’t do a bit of good.

    It’s impossible to save people from their own stupidity.

Comments are closed.