Doctor who used chelation therapy charged in autistic boy's death
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Two years ago today, Marwa Nadama walked into a Butler County doctor's office with her 5-year-old son in her arms and hope in her heart that a controversial chemical treatment for autism would help her realize her dreams for the boy's improvement.
Before the day ended, her hopes and her son had died.
Today, Dr. Roy Eugene Kerry, 68, of Greenville, Mercer County, is being asked to turn himself over to authorities to face felony charges of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child and a misdemeanor count of recklessly endangering another person.
The charges were filed yesterday in the office of District Judge Cliff Woessner of Slippery Rock, who is expected to arraign Dr. Kerry today. The doctor is an owner of Advanced Integrative Medicine, which has offices in Portersville and Greenville.
An affidavit of probable cause supporting the doctor's arrest indicates that Abubakar "Tariq" Nadama went into cardiac arrest on Aug. 23, 2005, while a chemical solution was being administered by way of an intravenous "push" during a treatment known as chelation. He was taken to Butler Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
An autopsy later determined that the chemical solution given to Tariq had removed too much calcium from the child's body, essentially resulting in a fatal heart attack.
The death was a lightning rod for bitter debate within the autism community.
Despite it being roundly rejected by traditional medicine, the theory that autism is rooted in heavy-metal poisoning -- a belief shared by Tariq's mother and father, a high-ranking doctor in Britain -- has burgeoning support. Many who believe there is a connection between autism and heavy metals sensitivity or poisoning also support chelation, a treatment traditionally used to remove lead from the bloodstream of a person suffering from lead poisoning.
The theory behind chelation is that the same chemical commonly used to remove lead from the bloodstream can be used to remove other heavy metals from people with autism. As the metals cling to the chemical compound, the fluid is excreted in the urine.
Soon after Tariq's death, medical experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed the child's autopsy report and determined that the chelation itself had not caused the child's death, but that the wrong chemical agent had been used.
A criminal complaint filed yesterday notes that Dr. Mary M. Carrasco concluded, following a review of more than 600 pages of medical documents, that Dr. Kerry was "grossly negligent" in that he was to have used "calcium EDTA" on Tariq, as had been prescribed by another doctor in Chicago. Instead, Dr. Kerry used plain "disodium EDTA." Furthermore, she told authorities, neither chemical should have been administered in a quick "push" over a period of a few minutes, but rather in a slow drip over several hours.
Dr. Carrasco is director of A Child's Place at Mercy Hospital and of the internal and community health department of pediatrics. She helped establish the Pittsburgh region's first hospital-based center for child abuse evaluation at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Forensic Examiners.
Of equally critical importance is the doctor's role on the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Medical Legal Advisory Board on Child Abuse, a panel that reviewed the Nadama case last fall at the request of Butler County District Attorney Randa Clark. Dr. Carrasco has sat on the board since it was created in 1988.
Dr. Kerry has told the state medical board he used an IV push on Tariq because he was concerned that the child couldn't remain calm throughout the longer drip procedure and that he commonly used EDTA without the calcium additive during chelation treatments.
Since Tariq died, Dr. Kerry has continued to practice medicine, but he is facing a civil lawsuit and the potential loss of his license to practice medicine. The Nadama family filed a lawsuit against him in Mercer County in July.
Next month, he is to face a hearing before the state Board of Medicine on six counts that include engaging in unprofessional conduct and breaching the standard of care for administering the chelation treatment in a push form and for using the wrong solution.
If any of the allegations are found to be true, he could have his license suspended and be fined.
First Published August 22, 2007 11:38 pm