Respectful Insolence

A most disturbing video

Earlier this month, a “mercury mom” named Christine Heeren posted a most disturbing video to YouTube. Not long after, Kevin Leitch became aware of it and wrote about it, shortly after which the video was made a “private video” that only those given permission could view. Fortunately, Kevin had also downloaded the video and has made it available here.

It’s a disturbing video on many levels, portraying, as it does, Ms. Heeren’s autistic son being subjected to chelation therapy with EDTA, a therapy based on a failed hypothesis (that the mercury in thimerosal in vaccines “causes” or “contributes to” autism, a hypothesis which has been soundly refuted now by several epidemiologic studies and other science), with no evidence that it would work to “detoxify” and remove mercury months or years after exposure to result in improvements in or a “cure” for autism.

My first thought was: Why was the technician not wearing gloves while starting an IV? My second thought was: Why are they chelating this boy, who is not only not nonverbal, but is actually pretty communicative. My third question was “What the–?” when the technician said he was chelating with “garlic and vinegar.”

Intravenously??? Was he joking? I don’t think he was.

My final thought was: What kind of mother subjects her child to an ineffective quack treatment that requires him to be stuck for an IV line every week, putting her child at risk for harm for no benefit, and then posts a video of the treatment on the Internet proudly (at least until Kev discovered it)?

I say “ineffective” treatment because, as Kev describes, this child has been undergoing chelation for months now and, although verbal, still shows signs of autism:

Its a disturbing video on many levels. Heeren’s son has been undergoing chelation for seven months now and is still clearly totally autistic. During this video he is apparently writing ‘bus numbers’ down. The blog that Ms Heeren keeps (link on YouTube page) also makes it clear that her son still stims and he displays many common outward signs of autism (the scrunching up of the eyes at the start of the video reminds me of something my daughter does very much).

Moreover, any improvement in the child’s verbal and social skills over the many months he has been undergoing chelation is almost certainly due to development (remember autism is developmental delay) and not due to chelation with glutathione,

I simply can’t understand why this sort of thing still goes on.

Comments

  1. #1 Pascal Leduc
    April 19, 2007

    Garlic and Vinegar?? What are they, marinating him? Jeez, I hope this video dosent get into the cannibal community.

    Im quite curious as to the side effects of getting garlic and vinegar injected directly into the blood stream.

  2. #2 angry doc
    April 19, 2007

    “What kind of mother subjects her child to an ineffective quack treatment that requires him to be stuck for an IV line every week, putting her child at risk for harm for no benefit,”

    A desperate one.

  3. #3 factician
    April 19, 2007

    From one of the comments at Kevin Leitch’s site:

    “Gonna need a bigger bore needle for the shallots.”

    Truthfully, this blog entry made me feel physically ill. Though the mother clearly is trying to help, she is nearly criminally ignorant. How can we protect children from such foolishness?

  4. #4 HCN
    April 19, 2007

    angry doc replied that the mother was “A desparate one.”

    I don’t see that when the child is verbal, and apparently engaging. If my son was as talkative at that age, I would have been happy… but I did not consider myself “desparate”. Especially since my son was receiving very good special ed. services at his school and intensive speech therapy through the local Scottish Rite Clinic.

    A more appropriate word for describing Christine Heeren is “deluded”.

  5. #5 Stuart Coleman
    April 19, 2007

    Why isn’t this child abuse? Can’t someone make her stop a useless and potentially harmful procedure? It makes me sick.

  6. #6 daedalus2u
    April 19, 2007

    My own thought as to what is going on with parents who subject their children to “treatments” like this is indeed that they are “desparate,” but it is a desparation born not out of logic and reason, but out of cognitive dissonance.

    My own thought as to what is going on with parents who subject their children to “treatments” like this is indeed that they are “desperate,” but it is a desperation born not out of logic and reason, but out of cognitive dissonance.

    One of the hallmarks of the ASDs is a disruption of the mirror neuron system, the system by which a lot of communication occurs. Precisely how much remains a good question. I suspect that a lot of body language is mediated through the mirror neurons, and when that communication is “disrupted” because of a lack of synchronicity between respective mirror neuron systems between the two humans, the result is xenophobia. That xenophobia gets worse the greater the mismatch of mirror neuron mediated communication.

    If the disruption is of the “right” kind, it invokes the “uncanny valley” effect which can invoke very strong feelings of antipathy. When a child invokes these kinds of feelings in their parent, the parent either rejects the child, commits infanticide, or displaces those feelings of antipathy onto something else. In this case it is the evil pharmaceutical companies and mercury, in ages past, it was “witches”. Burning witches didn’t “cure” autism 500 years ago, destroying the pharmaceutical industry won’t cure autism now.

    Because the child doesn’t invoke the normal feeling that the child is another human being, any “treatment” that has the possiblity of restoring that sense of humanity is “worth it”.

  7. #7 Calli Arcale
    April 19, 2007

    “My own thought as to what is going on with parents who subject their children to “treatments” like this is indeed that they are “desperate,” but it is a desperation born not out of logic and reason, but out of cognitive dissonance.”

    I think some of the blame should also go on the quacks who hawk “treatments” like this one. To some extent, they are manufacturing demand, by persuading ill-informed but loving parents that their children must be “cured” of autism. I think part of the reason so many parents get fooled is because they would dearly love their children to be normal, so the promise of a cure is very seductive.

    You do get desperate as a parent; things achieve disproportionate importance when your child is involved. Unfortunately the science education in this country is poor enough that a lot of parents don’t have the intellectual tools necessary to realize when they’re taking these things out of proportion — and the frauds know that.

  8. #8 Ursula
    April 19, 2007

    I love my autistic son. I love how he views life. My husband, we are still married and together, feels the same.

    Why on earth would you want to change them? Change them into what? Normal?

  9. #9 Uncle Dave
    April 19, 2007

    Indeed many parents are extremely desparate for something to make thier child “normal”. Hollywoods “Lorenzo’s Oil” also comes to mind as a reinforcer of the “They can’t be completely trusted” view of medicine.
    My wife who has been a special education teacher (M.A. Special Ed)for many years now has pretty much seen it all at this point. After 25 + years she can pretty well identify symptomatic traits within the first few minutes of child’s evaluation (stemming, etc etc.). Her exposure to autistic children seems to be growing (southern Cal). Often the teaching techniques (in your face eye to eye contact, making them experience things outside thier limited space i.e. tastes, routines, behaviours etc.) though quite effective, are difficult for many parents to come to terms with (much like helping them with homework). Many parents give in to thier childs weaknesses and merely provide positive support to those weaknesses. My spouse deals with the here and now of autism in that for the most part, many of these children must receive, dare I say “training”, due to the fact that autistic habits that may seem just a bit unusual or harmless in childhood will ultimately be very troublesome and life limiting triats when they become full grown adults. There are many parents who do a much better job of dealing with the “here and now” of thier childs autistic world. Those parents ultimately will be rewarded with a child that may be able to cope much better later on in life than those parents who are singularly focused on a distant cure and see thier childs odd traits as something that may just go away. Raising an autistic child is quite a few notches above the norm to say the least and it is often subject to emotionally driven weaknesses of the adult and not the child.
    From my rabbit hole, I wish that more focus and effort was given to effective teaching techniques already in existance; techniques which build self sufficiency and adaptive skills for the days immediately in front of them.

  10. #10 Pseudonym
    April 20, 2007

    I agree with Ursula. My autistic daughter (quite rare, I know!) is wonderful. I wouldn’t change her for the world.

    What I want for her is to understand who she is, and that her coping with the world might be a little bit harder than everyone else’s.

    And, I must say, a fabulous pediatrician, lots of occupational therapy and speecy therapy, a few vitamin suppliments (because she’s a fussy eater), cutting out propionates (she seems to be intolerant to them; trial and error) and a great school do far more than any quack medicine ever would.

  11. #11 angry doc
    April 20, 2007

    I apologise if I sounded like a troll.

    Some parents of autistic children find it difficult to accept their children and see their situation as the loss of a normal child. I can understand why they will want to to seek a ‘cure’ so their children can be ‘normal’, even if I think their choices of ‘treatment’ are wrong.

  12. #12 Luna_the_cat
    April 20, 2007

    I’m going to repeat a call from an earlier comment — how is this not child abuse?

    Aren’t there laws against subjecting a child to harmful or unnecessary medical procedures? And how on earth is what is happening to this poor boy not harmful to him?

    And, a child who is hurt through ignorance is just as hurt as one who is hurt through malice.

  13. #13 Kev
    April 20, 2007

    And so my site dies ;o)

    Sorry folks but interested parties can view the video here:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5984127405622843714

  14. #14 y'ello
    April 20, 2007

    Interesting article in the March 2007 issue of Discover
    on autism.

    http://discovermagazine.com/2007/apr/autism-it2019s-not-just-in-the-head

  15. #15 Uncle Dave
    April 22, 2007

    Got that issue myself. Very interesting.

    “Gene’s load the gun and environment pulls the trigger”
    Also;
    “This explosion of cases has raised countless questions: Is the increase real, is it the result of increased awareness and expanding diagnostic categories,…” (taken from Discover article)

    I have often asked my wife this question. Do you think the rise in autism is due to increased awareness, and an expanded diagnostic ability or is there indeed a true increase in population????
    However, I have to keep in mind that her data point may be governed by her local area and changes in socio-economic and other population factors.

  16. #16 Peter
    April 23, 2007

    I was looking up the thimerosal that was mentioned. It is not clear if it does or does not cause autism because science on both sides of the fence disagree and show different results. But when I found this site; thimerosal.worldwidewarning.net I have to agree that the compound itself –and knowing that mercury is just NOT a healthy substance to get in contact with– is not something I would want kids injected with.

  17. #17 Orac
    April 23, 2007

    Wrong.

    It is quite clear that the mercury in thimerosal does not cause autism. It’s about as clear as any such question in medicine can be. The website you reference looks like nothing more than the usual antivaccination canards tarted up as “concern” about mercury.

    The “science” claiming that thimerosal causes autism is invariably shoddy, poorly done, etc., as documented extensively on this blog. Meanwhile, good epidemiological study after study have failed to find a link. One can argue that perhaps there is a very small effect in susceptible individuals that wasn’t picked up in the huge epidemiological studies, but even that little “out” is getting increasingly hard to argue.

    It’s true that a negative correlation can ever be conclusively and 100% proved for anything, but what we can say is that there is no correlation detectable between thimerosal in vaccines and autism in multiple large, well-designed studies. Indeed, the mercury militia is nothing other than antivaccination hysteria under a different guise.

  18. #18 Peter
    April 23, 2007

    I do not know what a mercury militia is. I do know what mercury is. And regardless of what it might or might not cause, it is not a healthy substance. Science on all sides sure agree on that and agree that it is toxic. What I see is that there are scientists saying it causes this-and-that and scientists who claim that is not true. But what is very clear if you read the material from both sides is that the “does not cause autism” side on the debate downplays the actual toxicity of mercury. And yet, that is not a debate since everyone agrees that mercury is toxic. So why are they pretending that mercury is suddenly not toxic if it comes to vaccines and yet agree that it is toxic when debated in a different context?

    The only sensible thing to do with controversial substances is to take it out and stop using it until things are clear. And that is probably not something that takes place overnight.

  19. #19 Orac
    April 23, 2007

    Pay attention.

    Thimerosal was removed from all routine childhood vaccines except for some flu vaccines (which most children don’t get anyway as infants) in 2002, based on fearmongering, not science. If thimerosal were responsible for autism (or even strongly contributory to it), we would expect a huge drop in the number of autism cases by now. None has been observed.

    As for “scientists disagree,” that’s a common crank technique to make it look as though there is a scientific controversy when none exists. Creationists use it all the time. As for the “mercury is toxic” angle, the dose makes the poison; that’s one of the most basic principles of pharmacology. There are lots of things we ingest into our bodies that are toxic at high doses and safe at low doses. Water is toxic at high doses, and people have died from water intoxication.

    You’re falling for the antivaccination canards that the mercury militia like to lay down.