Hard Science Or Hard Sell?

As a publisher whose primary goal is to provide my readers with the truth, it was a real challenge to explore the work Loran Medical Systems is doing.(see page 1, October 1995 issue).

When I was a high school biology student, I was instructed in the “scientific method.” This is what makes it possible for researchers to determine the truth and for others to follow their work. Medicine relies upon trial and error, and strict adherence to the guidelines set forth by the scientific method. What is one to think when companies take over science and toss the traditional approach out the window?

Some may hail such companies as revolutionary-after all, the scientific method is notoriously slow. As James Stevens of Loran Medical Systems said, people are dying in the years it takes for the FDA to approve a treatment. If lives are on the line, why should anyone bat an eye at non-traditional approaches to medicine?

As a person who has suffered from type I diabetes for twenty years, I feel it is crucial to bat both eyes. In the past, charlatans traveled from town to town hawking so-called “medicines” from the back of covered wagons. These elixirs were often called “snake-oil”-phony, misleading, and sometimes dangerous. Today, nobody drives a covered wagon, but desperate people are still attracted to a good show and a promising potion.

Loran Medical Systems has been careful not to claim that it offers a cure. However, it has made some claims that have prompted people to invest the price of a new car in its trials. When a person who is suffering from both the physical ravages of diabetes and the mental anguish and fear that come with it, it is not surprising when that person turns to desperate measures for help.

There is no guarantee that the trials are safe. Even if they prove to be completely harmless, there is the question of their efficacy. Some patients have exhibited a decrease in insulin requirements, but the decrease could be attributed to factors other than the fetal cell transplant. For instance, changing the type of insulin one takes can lessen a required dosage. And if a patient must still inject insulin (in any amount) several times a day, what has really been gained? Loran Medical System insists that the fetal cell transplants help control complications, thereby keeping a person healthier until science discovers the “cure.”

I have diabetes, I worry about my children and what impact this disease may have on their lives. As publisher of this newspaper, I speak to doctors, educators, and people in the diabetes business every day. I feel like I am at least as educated about diabetes as the average person with the disease.

I would not undergo Loran Medical System’s procedure. Even if $20,000 did not represent a lot of money to me, I still wouldn’t do it.

Six months from now, a new trial may appear on the horizon, one without all the scientific and ethical questions raised by Loran Medical Systems. If I undergo their procedure, and have Russian fetal cells in my body, a more reputable researcher might pass me by as a candidate for his or her procedure. I might require 15% less insulin than I did before going to Loran Medical Systems, but I don’t think it would be worth it.

As adults in a free society, we have seemingly limitless decisions to make. What will help me? What will hurt my body? Is this worth mortgaging my house? As difficult as it is to remain skeptical when every cell in your body wants to be hopeful, it’s vital to ask questions first. As someone once said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

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