Portrait of an alleged stem cell fraud: my thoughts on 60 Minutes episode

60 Minutes segment on stem cell fraud.
60 Minutes segment on stem cell fraud. Screen shot of video.

Last night 60 Minutes broadcasted ( you can watch the episode here) a long awaited 2nd segment in their continuing investigation of stem cell fraud. The first segment investigating phony doctors Stowe and Morales led to their ultimate pursuit by the FBI and indictment, aired in a couple years ago.

The new episode on stem cells reported by Scott Pelley was highly unusual in that it included a sting style portion of a surprise hidden camera interview ( you can learn more about the hidden camera aspect and the remarkable setup that went into the surprise interview here in this fascinating video clip from CBS) with alleged stem cell fraud, Dr. Dan Ecklund, whose medical license was suspended a half dozen years ago.

I was honored to have in some small way helped the producers of 60 Minutes with their investigation into stem cell fraud more generally. Note that I do not have any knowledge of whether Dr. Ecklund is innocent or guilty of the charges made in the 60 Minutes broadcast.

There was also a followup segment on CBS This Morning that was interesting.

The Susser family who worked with 60 Minutes on the investigation are heroes in my opinion.

When CBS reporter Scott Pelley surprised Dr. Dan Ecklund it was dramatic. Ecklund was stunned and who wouldn’t be to have 60 Minutes surprise you like that. ALso, I was very surprised to see that he actually did an interview with Pelley, who thought that Ecklund would simply leave.

When CBS had Duke University analyze an alleged stem cell sample from Ecklund, Duke indicated that it mostly consisted of dead cells and debris, which could be very dangerous to a patient and certainly could do no good.

Patients and families out there reading this–please take extreme caution when considering a non-FDA approved stem cell treatment. Talk to your own personal physician and get multiple opinions. Do your research. Ask to see data.

5 thoughts on “Portrait of an alleged stem cell fraud: my thoughts on 60 Minutes episode”

  1. I am all for warning patients to do their diligent research, and as such this segment offers a good warning to patients.

    Even so, this is the comment I left on the 60 min. website:

    The 60 Min. segment is distorted to make it appear as if ALL overseas clinics are frauds because they are unapproved by the FDA.
    In fact the Sussers have used another Mexico clinic that they believed did improve their son. This 60 min. segment stated there was little improvement from that Mexico treatment, yet here is what the Sussers say about their “out of the country” stem cell treament in 2005:

    Adam’s parents say he has shown great improvement since he received two umbilical cord stem cell treatments in February and November.

    *****”After the second treatment, he started talking, making more sounds, being more verbal,” said Judy Susser, who said he also has more strength, mobility and flexibility.*****

    A little less than three months after receiving his first stem cell treatment, doctors told the Sussers that Adam probably would never see.

    *****But about three weeks later, they watched as Adam followed a ball across the floor with his eyes that his twin brother, Brandon, had rolled to him.*****


    None of the overseas clinics claim miraculous improvements……….they only claim the potential for improvement that varies per patient.

    Though we have stem cells in storage (frozen) from umbilical cord, placenta and bone marrow for my son who became paralyzed (at age 7) from a soccer injury, we have opted to wait until more significant improvements are possible. The search is still on for the best way to process and apply the stem cells.

    Currently we only see minor improvements in those treated, but even those minor improvements may be better than none for many of these patients!!!

    After all, conventional medicine has little to nothing to offer.

    1. Faye-
      I think it is a mistake to rely on testimonials as evidence of the efficacy of these treatments. People paying for these offshore stem cell treatments have invested a lot financially and emotionally, and will often see the results they want to see. There is also the problem of outside influences- Was the child receiving any other treatments during the time which he improved? Does the severity of the child’s condition ever fluctuate without any intervention? Since these overseas clinics do not control for these types of things, it is impossible to know how much the stem cells actually helped the child.

      The problem with all the overseas clinics currently offering stem cell therapy is that none of them seem interested in determining whether their treatments actually work. Rather than conducting a controlled study that could prove efficacy, they are content to continue selling their treatment using testimonials.

      You wrote – “None of the overseas clinics claim miraculous improvements”

      It’s true that these clinics choose their words carefully and do not make promises. However, they almost all have links to testimonials from former patients which imply that significant improvement is possible. Regardless of the words they use, they are still selling false hope. Personally, I believe these treatments are nothing more than expensive placebos.

      I believe we have the same objectives when it comes to stem cell science. We all want effective treatments as quickly as possible. I simply don’t see any offshore clinic that is doing anything to push the science forward. In fact, I see them as impediments to eventual treatments.

      I wish your son the best of luck and I hope the stem cells you saved will prove to be of great use.

      Also, here is some information about David Steenblock, the owner of the clinic mentioned in the article you linked.


    1. Gary,

      It takes courage to go out there and do what you’ve done. You and your family are real heroes in my opinion.

      I’m working hard via my research and as an advocate to do my part.

      My sincerest thanks and best wishes to you!


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