China only hope for sick Kathleen
By BELINDA SCOTT
KATHLEEN Robb's only hope of walking again is illegal in Australia.
So the 68-year-old Coffs Harbour pensioner has had to travel to China to gain access to the only treatment that she believes can help her.
Mrs Robb has suffered for 10 years from cerebella ataxia, a deterioration of part of the brain which affects balance, speech and eyesight.
Following researching worldwide about the condition via her computer, Mrs Robb found information about the Chinese treatment and was able to talk to cerebella ataxia sufferers who had been treated for the condition using embryonic stem cell therapy.
This therapy is illegal in Australia, because of a Federal ban on cloning of human embryos.
This ban is expected to be challenged by the States at today's Council of Australian Governments meeting.
State and Territory leaders are expected to warn the Prime Minister that continuing the ban could deny medical breakthroughs to the terminally ill and infertile couples.
The Lockhart Review recommended the use of therapeutic cloning, and Queensland Premier Peter Beattie is now saying those States who want to do so, should be able to go ahead. Australian of the Year, Professor Ian Frazer, is also urging a lifting of the ban.
"I'm very indignant that the 'God squad' and politicians can affect your life by banning research and treatments, so they are only available to people who can afford to go to China," said Mrs Robb's husband, Cedric Robb.
"Australia has already lost two of the lead researchers in this field."
He said Mrs Robb's treatment would cost about $A25,000.
The chief executive officer of the Mid North Coast Division of General Practice, Dr David Ellis, said as far as he was aware, the Chinese treatment was extremely experimental and he was not aware that the therapy had been successfully proven in animals.
He said even if the cloning law was changed in Australia today, it would be 10 or 15 years before successful neurological treatments based on the research were available in Australia.