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