Bioethics 27 (4):194-207 (2013)

Abstract
The paper looks in detail at patients that were treated at one of the most discussed companies operating in the field of untried stem cell treatments, Beike Biotech of Shenzhen, China. Our data show that patients who had been treated at Beike Biotech view themselves as proactively pursuing treatment choices that are not available in their home countries. These patients typically come from a broad variety of countries: China, the United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa and Australia. Among the patients we interviewed there seemed to be both an awareness of the general risks involved in such experimental treatments and a readiness to accept those risks weighed against the possible benefits. We interpret this evidence as possibly reflecting the emergence of risk-taking patients as ‘consumers’ of medical options as well as the drive of patients to seek treatment options in the global arena, rather than being hindered by the ethical and regulatory constraints of their home countries. Further, we found that these patients tend to operate in more or less stable networks and groups in which they interact and cooperate closely and develop opinions and assessments of available treatment options for their ailments. These patients also perform a multiple role as patients, research subjects, and research funders because they are required to pay their way into treatment and research activities. This new social dynamics of patienthood has important implications for the ethical governance of stem cell treatments
Keywords ethics of stem cell research  patients  China  translational medicine  stem cell tourism
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2011.01929.x
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