Navigating the ‘grey areas’: Australian medical travellers in China's stem cell bionetwork

Jane Elizabeth Mary Brophy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The last decade has seen a marked rise in the phenomenon of the so-called stem cell tourism, whereby people travel from their home countries to access unproven stem cell treatments abroad. Despite increasing attempts on an international level from regulators, policy-makers and scientists to deter people from undergoing potentially harmful treatments, patient demand persists. Over the last decade, China has emerged as a leading destination for people seeking such treatments, where providers of treatments operate in varying ‘shades of grey’. While Chinese government intervention has had some impact on the availability of treatments within China, top-down regulatory measures face limitations considering strong patient demand and the geographical flexibility demonstrated by both patients and providers. This article draws on interviews with Australian patients who have travelled to China for stem cell treatments, or considered it and decided against it, as well as representatives of stem cell clinics in China and other stakeholders. It argues that Australian patients and/or carers articulate a culturally situated moral imperative to act in the face of limited conventional biomedical options and that commercial clinics capitalise on this to attract new patients and sustain the demand – either ‘underground’ in China, or by moving to other jurisdictions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-227
Number of pages12
JournalAsia Pacific Viewpoint
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Stem cells
  • Medical tourism
  • China
  • Regulation
  • Global mobility

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