- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2007

BANGKOK — After years of suffering from congestive heart failure that caused him seven heart attacks, Douglas Rice, 61, from Washington state, was told he had three months to live, but he turned down an artificial heart offered by American doctors.

“I did not want one. I did not want to be alive like a machine,” said the semi-retired entrepreneur. Instead, he decided to fly to Bangkok for experimental stem-cell therapy that cost $30,000. “I did not hesitate at all. You use your own blood, your own stem cells, and then they go back to your own body. I don’t see any danger at all,” he said.

“There have been no mortalities from the treatment” in a study of 65 patients, said Supachai Chaithiraphan, chairman of Chao Phya Hospital and president of the Heart Association of Thailand.

“We don’t know yet whether the procedure helps patients to live longer, but it relieves their pain. We can help them to have a better quality of life. As a doctor, I think we should,” he said.

More than 200 people from around the world have received the treatment at four hospitals in the Thai capital. For patients like Mr. Rice, who feel they have run out of choices, stem-cell research could be their only hope of staying alive.

“I came to this hospital in a wheelchair and walked away,” said Mr. Rice, recalling his pre-surgery condition when, he said, he couldn’t walk or think straight.

“It makes me feel night-and-day different. The stem cells work very well. There is no reason to be in a position where you can’t feel good.”

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