Horizon: The Doctor Who Makes People Walk Again?

Director: BBC
Year: 2005
Country: UK
Rating: N/A

Filed under: Human Transplantation, Documentary

Are Dr Huang's methods too much too soon? In Beijing, a remarkable medical pilgrimage is taking place. The sick and the dying are travelling here for a treatment pioneered by Dr Huang Hongyun. He claims he can restore functions that Western doctors said were lost forever. He uses a technique that would be banned in the West, by taking cells from aborted foetuses and injecting them into the brains and spines of patients with spinal injuries and disease. Despite there being no clear clinical evidence that his methods work, hundreds of patients from all over the Western world are travelling to Dr Huang's clinic in search of a miracle. In the last four years he has treated over 700 patients and his waiting list now stretches to many years. His treatment is based on groundbreaking research pioneered in the UK but some claim Dr Huang is racing ahead too quickly. Scientists and neurosurgeons point to a large gap in the provision of any clinical evidence or empirical data to back up his claims. They believe that Dr Huang is forging ahead without fully calculating the potential risks to his patients. For Vic Washby and his wife Katrina, Dr Huang is their only chance. Vic was diagnosed with motor neuron disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2002. Vic is pinning his hopes on a dream that Dr Huang has been chasing for the last 20 years. While Western doctors and scientists argue about the efficacy of Dr Huang's procedure, Vic Washby and patients like him are taking the decision to travel to China for surgery into their own hands.

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This Biomedical Ethics Film Library is being presented in partnership with European Medical Students' Association (EMSA)