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lefteh's avatar

Is chelation an ethical treatment for childhood autism? Should government studies be carried out?

Asked by lefteh (9324 points ) July 12th, 2008

See here. I just don’t know how to feel about this one.

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12 Answers

marinelife's avatar

There is currently virtually no scientific study of this use. The NIH put their planned study on hold. I think there would serious concerns because of the nature of the chemicals used in the treatment. I think studies should be done.

We know that children and adults do not react the same way to drugs. One child has died as a result of chelation treatment.

Until they are, I think possibly it should be banned as an “off the books” use.

Seesul's avatar

Boy, I really want to see Shilolo’s take on this one. I don’t think anyone else here can answer it with enough expertise. It just doesn’t sound ethical to me, more like experimentation on kids who already have a lot to deal with.

scamp's avatar

The following statement taken from your link really scares me;

Despite lawsuits and at least one child’s death, several thousand autistic children are already believed to be using chelation, their parents not content to wait for a study.

nikipedia's avatar

Based on the available data, I think jumping into chelation treatment is not a good idea, but let’s separate out (1) the risk of death and (2) how well it works. As far as I know, both of the kids who died following chelation therapy were being treated with forms of EDTA, so it’s possible that the other chelating agents are safer.

But, I would not want my kid to be the one to prove that hypothesis was wrong. Which is why research is so crucial.

So does it work? No one knows. And if people are going to insist on chelating their kids with or without data (which obviously is pretty f-ing stupid) then I think scientists have an obligation to provide that data.

Unfortunately, in the course of doing so they may inadvertently lend credibility to the thimerosol controversy, which argues that heavy metals in vaccines contribute to autism. No scientific data exist to support this position. So from a scientific standpoint it seems wasteful and foolish to pursue treatments that have anything to do with heavy metals.

As the article points out, though, parents are going to chelate their kids anyway, which is basically performing uncontrolled experiments on their own children. Government-funded research studies have to follow a strict protocol when researching new treatments that could be used on humans. So these studies would be much safer than the ones parents are performing on their children. Also, one parent using one form of chelation therapy on one child without any other controls cannot provide any kind of conclusive data whatsoever. So a government-funded study has the additional benefit of being, well, real science that can provide real answers.

So is chelation treatment ethical? As it stands now, no—it’s putting your child at risk unnecessarily and with little evidence that you’ll be successful.

Should government studies be carried out? Yes—unfortunately, desperation and lack of good sense forces this to most ethical move.

gailcalled's avatar

I have a grandnephew who is diagnosed at the very mild end of the autism spectrum. His parents and all of their friends in similar situations will try almost anything -grasp at any straw. We can live with the glutein-free diet but his grandmother and I (great aunt) are violently opposed to chelation. We have been collecting data from the medical profession (read Niki’s terrific answer above) and anecdotal stuff from the families. Drs. say “Absolutely not;” family support groups say “Yes.”

I have an adult friend who used chelation therapy in order to rid her body of heavy metals, and had much more serious problems with her environmental allergies and chronic fatigue afterwards. She now can’t go out in sunlight or be near any electrical current.

gailcalled's avatar

Here are dozens of legitimate debunking links;

Site run by a MD; http://www.chelationwatch.org/

lefteh's avatar

Great link, Gail. That’s enough to convince me.

gailcalled's avatar

Glad to help. Autism and the related syndromes are one of the medical mysteries…different wiring in the brain maybe.

lefteh's avatar

Yeah. My mother is a physical therapist in the local school system, and she works with all sorts of autistic kids. A few times, I’ve just sat there with them and talked with them and watched them draw. It’s so interesting. So many of them are so incredibly smart…you can tell from what they draw on their papers. They just can’t communicate their thoughts as much as they’d like. Quite the mystery.

gailcalled's avatar

How old are the kids she works with? It must be a challenge sometimes. See PM.

lefteh's avatar

Very interesting message.
And the vast majority of the kids are from ages 5 to 12, though she does work with a few high schoolers. Many of her kids, unfortunately, don’t make it to high school.

skfinkel's avatar

What a tragedy for these children. I believe research should be done into ultrasounds—which are done at a higher and higher rate and at higher frequencies. No one has really done studies on ultrasounds since 1991, when the frequencies were made seven times stronger. With such a ubiquitous medical procedure, and rates of autism rising so quickly, I truly can’t understand why no one is proving that ultrasounds are benign.

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