This is just heart-wrenchingly sad:
A [Pittsburgh area] doctor was charged with involuntary manslaughter Wednesday for administering a chemical treatment that state police say killed a 5-year-old autistic boy.
The child, Abubakar Tariq Nadama, went into cardiac arrest at Dr. Roy E. Kerry’s office immediately after undergoing chelation therapy on Aug. 23, 2005.
Chelation removes heavy metals from the body and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating acute heavy metal poisoning, but not for treating autism. Some people who believe autism is caused by a mercury-containing preservative once used in vaccines say chelation may also help autistic children.
A plethora of blog pages and bandwidth have been devoted to the general issue of chelation and autism. I will simply note for the record that there is no peer-reviewed clinical trial evidence that chelation therapy is an effective treatment for autism.
This particular case has been covered ad nauseum by physician bloggers like Orac (at his old site and more recently) and Dr. RW. (The CaseWatch offshoot of Quackwatch also details the legal case itself.).
In fact, CDC officials reviewing this case included it in their publication (as case #2) in the journal, Pediatrics, detailing three deaths caused by hypocalcemia secondary to docs using the wrong form of the chelating agent (EDTA) that would otherwise be used for acute heavy metal poisoning. Dr. RW noted that not only is chelation not indicated for autism, but only one form of EDTA is intended for acute heavy metal intoxication (the calcium-disodium salt of EDTA). Acute heavy metal poisoning is the kind that occurs, for example, when bridge workers sandblast away old lead paint and inhale the particles. That is a medically approved indication for chelation therapy.
Anyway, it appears from published reports that Dr Kerry instead used the disodium salt of EDTA, which would sequester calcium in the body to the point that heart muscle (highly dependent on calcium) can no longer contract and dies.