You don’t have to be a parent to care about the welfare of children—but it does bring things into a sharp, personal light. I recently wrote about Daniel Hauser, a child likely to die of Hodgkin’s disease due to his parents’ cult medicine beliefs. Cases like his are aberrations—they stand out for their rarity, but also for their horror. Still, the horror is mitigated somewhat by the rarity.
More frightening are systemic abuses of children via cult medicine beliefs, ones that affect dozens or hundreds of kids at a time. One of the most egregious of these is Lupron therapy for autism. As documented by Steve Novella and Orac, this is an unscientific practice of chemically castrating young boys with autistic-like behaviors.
If you just did a double-take, you read it right. Mark and David Geier promote the chemical castration of children with autism spectrum disorders. The reason behind this is not all that important, and is much better documented by Steve and Orac. But the horror of it is hard to comprehend.
The journey to sexual maturity is difficult enough, both psychologically and physically. To purposely interrupt this process is nothing short of abuse (whether it is also battery is an open question). Since there is no valid medical reason to castrate children—such as precocious (early) puberty, or prostate cancer(!)—this practice is unjustifiable. Are they also using this drug on girls, and if so, what are the effects? We not infrequently use drugs “off label”, that is, not for the indications approved by the FDA, but this is normally a technicality—the drug clearly is good for the condition, but the drug company hasn’t had the incentive to specifically test that indication. But to use a dangerous drug that destroys the normal development of a child for no clearly indicated reason is more than immoral. What the Geiers are doing is beyond “alternative”—it’s quackery, possibly fraud, and abusive. I don’t know what motivates them, but from where I sit, apparently ideology and money play a role.
They’re opening centers all over the country for their quackery, and these centers must be profitable. You see, most insurance companies aren’t going to pay for treatments that are so clearly insane, so parents pay cash. I do wonder how long it will take for insurance companies to wonder about possible fraud. For example, this bit from their website:
We always work to provide whatever is necessary to optimize insurance coverage for medications.
…is just the kind of thing that raises red flags to fraud investigators. Does it mean that they will “stretch” the definition of “precocious puberty”? Or simply that they will send a bill to the insurer, like most doctors? Or are the words just there to reassure parents who will inevitably receive a bill?
What these new clinics are achieving is nothing less than a cottage industry of child abuse centers. To call it anything else is a lie—a lie that harms children. It is nearly unimaginable to me that this is allowed to go on—that a couple of “scientists” working out of their basement are allowed to medically castrate children without any repercussions.
You should be nauseated, as I am, that this is allowed to go on. But what can we do?
I’d start with writing the state medical boards where the clinics are located. State medical boards have a long history of tolerating quackery, but who knows? Maybe someone will wake up and realize that it’s not OK to castrate autistic kids. Most states will probably require the patient to make a formal complaint, but a letter or email couldn’t hurt.