4 questions to ask before seeking experimental treatment

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Medical treatments are advancing at an incredibly rapid pace. This makes it difficult to keep up with developments and discern between legitimate research and unapproved procedures.

You are not alone in relying on a doctor for help understanding the options. However, with all the information available with the click of a mouse, it is important to do your own research as well.

Understand the benefits and risks

Before undergoing an experimental procedure, make sure you know the answers to these questions:

  1. Has this procedure ever been performed before? How many operations has the doctor completed? What were the results?
  2. Is it a government-approved clinical trial?
  3. What are the credentials and medical history for each of the physicians involved?
  4. Is there anything to indicate the results seem too good to be true?

Failing to ask these questions can have devastating consequences. For instance, three women lost all or most of their sight after receiving stem cell injections into their eyes. The procedure was evidently supposed to treat an eye disease, though there were several red flags that indicated such results were not to be expected.

The women all went to a private clinic and at least two of them believed they were undergoing an operation as part of government-approved research. But there was actually no government endorsement. Further, it is not standard practice to perform experimental treatments on both eyes at the same time. Finally, in at least one of the cases, a nurse practitioner, not a physician, injected the stems cells.

The bottom line

Always seek a second opinion to avoid serious damages, especially when a proposed course of treatment is experimental. In this case, an operation that was neither government approved nor proven to work cost three women their eyesight.

It is very tempting to follow a course of treatment that promises good results, even if it is not well established. Thorough research and input from other medical professionals can, however, prevent you from walking into a bad situation.

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