This week, a quack by the name of Mark Geier had his medical license summarily suspended by the U.S. State of Maryland. According to the order, Geier “misdiagnosed autistic children with precocious puberty and other genetic abnormalities and treated them with potent hormonal therapy (“Lupron Therapy” or “Lupron Protocol”), and in some instances, chelation therapy, both of which have a substantial risk of both short-term and long-term adverse side effects. The Respondent’s treatment exposed the children to needless risk of harm.” (Emphasis mine)
The Geiers Lupron Protocol to treat autism was based on a few thing that could politely be called a stretch but more accurately called hogwash. Firstly, a study found that if testosterone and mercury are dissolved in benzene, the mercury would latch on to the testosterone. Secondly was the belief that thimerosal, a compound of mercury used as a preservative in some vaccines, could cause autism. Thirdly was the idea that chelation would remove the mercury and turn the patient nonautistic. Benzene is not blood, and a lot of things would attach to mercury dissoled in Benzene. In the Omnibus Autism Proceedings in front of Vaccine Court, the “thimerosal causes autism” hypothesis was totally discredited. Lastly, even if the first two had been true, chelation prevents further poisoning, but can’t undo the damage already done.
Mark Geier’s “Method of Treatment” was to (mis)diagnose autistic patients with precocious puberty. The child would then be given Lupron to get rid of the testosterone thus supposedly making the mercury easier to chelate, and then chelated.
There are a string of tests to determine if a patient is suffering from precocious puberty and these were not done. “The Respondent failed to conduct adequate physical examinations of any of the patients and in several instances, began his Lupron Protocol based merely on a telephone consultation with the child’s parent and the results of selected laboratory tests he ordered. The Respondent’s omission of a comprehensive physical examination constitutes a danger because his treatment is based on a diagnosis that requires documentation of sexual development beyond that expected for the age of the child.” (Emphasis mine)
Mark Geier’s son David was appointed to the State of Maryland’s Autism Commission as a Diagnostician despite having no medical qualifications and not being licensed to practise medicine. In light of his father’s (ahem) troubles, David Geier was asked to resign. He refused. The authorities are now taking “steps”.
Most puzzling to me is how Mark Geier sidestepped being independently checked. Any new treatment has to be approved by an IRB (Institutional Review Board). Somehow, Mark Geier managed to set up his own IRB and staff it with people who could be counted on to sign off on his protocol. Surely there are mechanisms in place to pick this up?
As a Software Test Analyst, I am familiar with Root Cause Analysis. In Root Cause Analysis, when a problem is found, we look to see if the problem is a once-off, or if there is an underlying root cause that will result in a reoccurrence of the problem unless fixed. In the Geier matter, serious questions have to be asked. How did Mark Geier get away with misdiagnosing autistic children and subjecting them to Lupron Therapy for five years? How was he able to create his own IRB and pack it with individuals who would back his methods without this trick being detected? And how did David Geier get a position on the Maryland Autism Commission as a Diagnostician despite having no medical qualifications and not being licensed to practise medicine? In short, how were such outrageous things allowed to happen?