The Bahamas is a country of 700 islands and Cays spread across an archipelago chain separated by more than one hundred square miles of turquoise transparent waters that are amongst some of the most naturally beautiful in the World. As a developing country it, perhaps, would not be considered as a place where potential advances in modern science would birth however its geographical position as the nearest non-contiguous land mass to the Northern American continent has placed the Bahamas in a unique tourism leadership position in the Western Hemisphere from as early as the 1960’s. The international exposure of the population to deal with a wide spectrum of educated affluent visitors along with the steady development of the physical infrastructure and socioeconomic progress of the indigenous people have made Stem Cell and Regenerative scientific sound legal framework a reality in the Bahamas in 2013. All of the available assets have been skillfully utilized to establish a legislative framework that can afford the state of the art scientific endeavors to flourish in a controlled monitored supervised environment. In the review there are many useful lessons to share and take away nuggets.
Two decades ago the Bahamas was rapidly emerging as a developing country in healthcare while the main driving force of the economy was Tourism and Financial Services; which still is the case today. However because of improvement in education standards over the period along with sound international standards being aligned with the Pan American Organization (PAHO) and The World Health Organization (WHO) the stage was being set for scientific research in healthcare. The return of internationally trained healthcare professionals began to impact the local environment in the Bahamas having been trained in the United Kingdom, Europe and North America. There were increasing numbers of these qualified professionals, from the mid 1970’s. It is mainly this cadre of healthcare professionals that would provide the critical thinking for the science “Tipping Points”. In 1995 the first internationally recognized local Ethics Review Committee was implemented at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau, Bahamas. This committee gave the formal oversight of the Bahamas HIV Aids (treatment and control of Maternal to Fetal Transmission of the HIV virus by Prof. Stanley Read and Hon. Dr. Perry Gomez) that has since become a global success herald from international centers such as the, PAHO, WHO and the United Nations.
As the global international interest continue to grow steadily in Stem Cell Research owing to the overall development and geographical positioning of the Bahamas it almost immediately came into the consideration of potential pioneers in the field to stage an aspect of this new emerging scientific research and therapy. However, there were certain realities that a developing country had to address to ensure success in the new world of Stem Cells. These may be summarized in the following: 1) Overcoming Cultural Bias, 2) Addressing Any Education Gaps 3) Strengthening of the Research Infrastructure 4) Development of the Legislative Regime 5) A Global Transformation for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine.
Overcoming Cultural Bias
All countries have a historical development way of living that is fundamental to the formulation of the societal culture and the Bahamas is no different in this regard. A population whose historical culture extends back to coastal Western Africa, migrating initially via the sixteenth century slave trade with passage of some through North America and civilized with United Kingdom and European leadership result in the cultural values that are expressed today. Entangled in the fundamental cultural values are Faith based beliefs, rituals, religion, moral values, legal systems, gender considerations, etcetera. The Bahamas became an independent sovereign nation in 1973 and the preamble to its constitution has in it specific reference to Judeo Christian values and an abiding respect for laws. Not to acknowledge certain potential biases is certain to create unnecessary challenges in areas of sensitive scientific development such as Stem Cell Research and Regenerative medicine in the Bahamas context. However once respect is shown to the various stakeholder groups with insight and understanding it is interesting to observe how relatively easily these “stone walls” can be overcome. The respect was provided without reservation and the buy-in with overcoming of the cultural biases was an encouragement to implement the necessary legislative framework in the Bahamas.
Addressing Education Gaps
Addressing the Education Gaps must be wide and comprehensive when dealing with new emerging science because so often it is assumed that professionals may have knowledge which they do not possess while laity may have knowledge of the topic that you do not expect. One must approach the education process with a fact finding openness that embraces differing opinions with reasoned responses in cases that engender confidence from stakeholders. Once the desired education level is attained then dissemination of the appropriate information amongst communities serve the cause well to arriving at a timely amicable conclusion. All the communication tools must be utilized to optimize the best outcome whenever they are available; of course public media has a special place. This must always have measured feedback to “fine tune” and “tailor” a process that can become unwieldy; if not monitored closely.
Strengthening of the Research Infrastructure
In developing countries one of the greatest challenges to the establishment of internationally recognized scientific research is the dearth of local suitable professionals to serve as the local “backbone” upon which to build. The Bahamas is very fortunate in this regard because of the cadre of a wide cross section of well qualified professionals with basic research experiences and international exposures. Although this is a meaningful asset for the local research infrastructure upon which to build strengthening of all aspects of the research environment in quantity and quality of personnel must now be a continuous process to ensure cutting edge status. To this end local experts welcome international experts as solo or interdependent professional partners to meet the need to ensure the necessary skill sets are available, developed and maintained to keep the Bahamas as a priority choice in the healthcare industry for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine moving forward.
Development of the Legislative Framework
The developmental legal framework is a challenge for First World and Developing Countries to design it so that it is comprehensive, robust and at the same time sufficiently flexible to allow scientists to comfortably invest the time and energies necessary to do the desired research. The research effort that can be expected to produce optimal results and thus these results can be translated into the mainstream of the medicine arena in a reasonable period of time. The legislative framework was accomplished in White Hall Parliamentary form of governance because of a savvy Prime Minister and A cabinet that understood the elements of the Stem Cell debate and was committed to the national initiative. The process was a consultative one with involvement of international consultants from North America, United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. The resulting legislative framework has met the expected outcome of enabling legislation to enhance the establishment and development of the Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine in the Bahamas that has the clear potential of a global paradigm shift in the healthcare industry. This has been accomplished in a relatively short period of time because stakeholders in the public and private sectors have combined the efforts with the support of civil society in symbiotic initiatives in the interests of all concerned.
A Global Transformation for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine
This modern healthcare industry movement that had its official birth in the Bahamas with the passage of the Stem Cell Research and Therapy Act 2013-in July, 2013 has transformed the global scientific healthcare arena by the easily accessible research environment for reputable professionals to practice their craft. Suitable applications to do leading world class Stem Cell research in the Bahamas have already been approved an there are others pending because the industry is a progressive one with numerous research options on the table. The welcoming of research projects from across the globe to be conducted in the Bahamas creates a new favorable evolving scientifically sound environment with excellent international communication for the dissemination of information, introduction of new healthcare information and products to the World. As an astute professional to not be attracted to participate in such a scientifically progressive environment would be considered a missed opportunity in the future.
The Way Ahead
The Bahamas has now entered the mainstream of healthcare research and therapy with the effective implementation of the Stem Cell Research and Therapy Act 2013. In this new era for the healthcare industry in the Bahamas that has a global transformational impact there are increasingly more significant research opportunities on the local horizon. The international healthcare industry key players would avail themselves of the new opportunities because it is sound professional judgment to do so; and not to do so would be missed opportunities for cutting edge advances in a rapidly evolving Stem Cell industry. In the world of Stem Cell Research the future of medicine is being realized as a today’s phenomenon. The further expansion and global impact of the world of Stem Cells is now a reality in the Bahamas where the shaping of a new era of research and therapy is poised to take off to a destiny filled with creative and innovative biomedicine based products. Scientists are welcomed as participants whose involvement are respected and valued.
To cite this article
The Bahamas Pathway to Establishment of Stem Cell Legislation in 2013 – Proceeding of the STEMSO Conference
CellR4 2014; 2 (1): e695
Published online: 04 Feb 2014