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Boy with autism dies during "chelation therapy."

August 24, 2005--various sources; updated August 25, 26, 30, 2005)

A five-year-old Pennsylvania boy with autism died on Tuesday August 22 during "chelation therapy" with intravenous EDTA. Chelation, a treatment intended to remove lead, mercury, and other substances from the body, is becoming increasingly popular as an "alternative" treatment for autism. EDTA, a synthetic amino acid. Chelation has been approved and has demonstrated utility for removing lead after lead poisoning. It has not been approved by the FDA for treating children with autism. To date no controlled, peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of chelation for autism or other developmental disabilities. The boy, who had been brought from England by his parents to receive the chelation, was being treated by Dr. Roy E. Kerry of Portersville and Greenville, Pennsylvania. Kerry is operator of the Advanced Integrative Medicine Center (AIMC), and is known for using a wide variety of "alternative" treatments and nonstandard diagnostic tools including chelation, "accupressure for allergies," and "Computerized Electrodermal Testing." (Post-Gazette 8-24; Post-Gazette 8-25;Tribune-Review story; Kerry website; Yahoo News:Yahoo News 8-26) From the AIMC website:

Advanced Integrative Medicine Center has been providing medical advice and treatment for over 30 years.  Along with providing chelation therapy The Center also provides a full range of allergy therapy, nutritional counseling, advanced techniques in hormone therapy, and massage therapy, to the latest modalities in diagnosing and treating illness (AIMC).

Despite the lack of empirical evidence showing that heavy metal poising causes autism, some organizations, such as "Generation Rescue," contend that autism is nothing more than mercury poisoning and can be entirely cured by eliminating systemic mercury. WCNC News of Charlotte North Caroline has quoted J.B. Handley, founder of Generation Rescue, as saying "Autism is treatable. It's reversible. It's nothing more than mercury poisoning" (WCNC, registration req.). The Generation Rescue website also states:

Generation Rescue believes that childhood neurological disorders such as autism, Asperger's, ADHD/ADD, speech delay, sensory integration disorder, and many other developmental delays are all misdiagnoses for mercury poisoning.

When you know cause, you can focus on cure.Thousands of parents are curing their children by removing the mercury from their children's bodies. We want you, the parent, to know the truth. (Generation Rescue)

Rashid Buttar, creator of a topical substance that supposedly cures autism by removing systemic mercury, has stated:

I know that these children are not autistic. There is no such thing as autism. It is toxicity....Yes, mercury is the cause and to remove mercury is the answer...This little bottle that helps the kids get better is the only thing that has been shown to conclusively get these kids better. Based on if you want to call it anecdotal or whatever. (WCNC Online, registration req.)

Buttar's treatment has not been subject to any empirical testing for safety or effectiveness for treating autism and has not been shown to be effective as a legitimate chelating agent. Rather than cast suspicion on a doctor that promotes and sells an unproven and untested treatment, the Representative Dan Burton (R-Indiana) and Diana Washington (D-California) have nominated for the National Institutes of Health "Pioneer Award" (Press Release; NIH Pioneer Award)

Chelation is among a growing number of pseudoscientific treatments for autism (Autism Watch). According to Stephen Barrett, founder of the Quackwatch website, "Basically, chelation has nothing to offer....The treatment is worthless and has some potential danger. Here is a case that demonstrates that." To date, treatments based on behavior analysis are the only empirically verified methods shown to be significantly effective for treating the major behavior problems associated with autism (ASAT; Behavior News)

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