Stem cell therapy: From evidence-based medicine to emotion-based medicine? the long Italian way for a scientific regulation

Paola Frati, Giacomo Frati, Matteo Gulino, Gianluca Montanari Vergallo, Alessandro Di Luca, Vittorio Fineschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On 23 May 2013, the Italian health minister decided to endorse a law regarding controversial stem cell-based therapies in 32 young terminally ill patients, shocking many scientists. According to the international scientific community, these therapies could be dangerous because they were not rigorously tested in humans. This decision was made after many days of media and judiciary pressure. Several lawsuits regarding stem cell-based therapies were brought before the judiciary districts of different Italian regions. We analyzed the Italian legal context regarding the field of pharmaceutical and medical devices, including the European Union trend. A national database - commonly used to manage legal materials for professional or educational purposes or both - was used to find relevant legal cases involving stem cell-based therapies. Stem cell-based therapies endorsed by the new Italian law have been the subject of an important discussion not only in the scientific community but also in various courts. We found several legal actions filed by parents in order to make stem cells available to their young children, who had serious neurodegenerative diseases. The majority of the analyzed legal disputes were settled in favor of the applicants, whereas only two decisions (Courts of Justice of Rome and Florence) rejected the complaint because of the absence of sufficient scientific data regarding stem cell-based therapies. The present Italian situation is influencing the destiny of future young patients and strongly impacting public and institutional opinion. It is a practical example of the complexity of the decision of not providing unapproved scientific stem cell-based therapies when medicine does not have any other alternative therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122
JournalStem Cell Research and Therapy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Cell Biology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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