The right to try unproven therapies for patients facing life-threatening diseases is a complex issue in medicine. George Q. Daley, Dean of Harvard Medical School, emphasizes the institution's role in shaping innovative physicians while acknowledging ethical concerns surrounding unproven treatments. He and Bioethicist Insoo Hyun explore the emotional and spiritual factors that complicate the topic, recognizing that real-life decisions for seriously ill patients and their families go beyond academic arguments.

There are significant risks to consider, including unproven treatments' potential for harm, the lack of comprehensive safety data, and the risk of exploiting vulnerable patients. Ethical principles in medicine stress the importance of doing no harm and making decisions based on the best available evidence. Clinically unproven treatments often lack the rigorous testing necessary to establish their safety and efficacy, potentially undermining the integrity of the medical profession and diverting patients from more appropriate interventions. These practical and ethical complexities underscore the importance of a thoughtful and compassionate approach to this challenging issue.

George Q. Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School and the Caroline Shields Walker Professor of Medicine at HMS, is an internationally recognized leader in stem cell science and cancer biology. He is also a longtime member of the HMS faculty whose work spans the fields of basic science and clinical medicine. Beyond his research, Daley has been a principal figure in developing international guidelines for conducting stem cell research and for the clinical translation of stem cells, particularly through his work with the International Society for Stem Cell Research, for which he has served in several leadership positions, including president (2007-08). He has also testified before Congress and spoken in forums worldwide on the scientific and ethical dimensions of stem cell research and its promise in treating disease.

Insoo Hyun is Director of Research Ethics and a faculty member of the Center for Bioethics and senior lecturer on Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is also Director at the Center for Life Sciences and Public Learning at the Boston Museum of Science. As a Fulbright Scholar and Hastings Center Fellow, Dr. Hyun's interests include ethical and policy issues in stem cell research and new biotechnologies.