The Maryland Board of Physicians has suspended the medical license of Dr. Mark Geier, a doctor known for using alternative and experimental treatments — one of which, Lupron, is sometimes used to chemically castrate sex offenders — on autistic children. According to the Chicago Tribune, Dr. Geier is charged with misrepresenting his medical credentials, misdiagnosing children and urging parents to try risky and untested treatments on their children without fully apprising the parents of the dangers.
As part of his Lupron Protocol, Geier administered Lupron, which suppresses reproductive hormone function, in high doses to autistic children in combination with chelators that were to remedy alleged “mercury toxicity.” Geier called Lupron a “miracle drug” but, in reality, his theories about it are based on junk science. Further, Geier was not “board-certified in any specialty relevant to autism or the use of hormone-disrupting drugs.”
Geier prescribed Lupron in six out of the nine cases reviewed to treat “precocious puberty.” But he did not conduct proper tests or examine the children as was necessary before placing them on these medications. Indeed, some of the children diagnosed with “precocious puberty” were too old to have the condition.
Geier, who is a genetic counselor, also falsely claimed that he is a board-certified geneticist and epidemiologist. He is not allowed to practice medicine in Maryland while the case is pending. He is still licensed to practice medicine in Illinois, Indiana and a number of other states.
Dr. Geier’s son, David Geier, is the executive director of the ASD Centers. However, he was found, according to the medical board, to have conducted medical examinations, made medical diagnoses and ordered medical tests for an autistic child.
The Maryland medical board also raised these concerns, according to the Chicago Tribune:
The medical board also faulted the way Geier claimed to vet his treatment protocols. Federal regulations require that independent boards review research protocols to protect the rights and welfare of research subjects. But the board Geier set up included his wife, his son, David, and himself, according to the order.
This is not the first time Geier’s work has been criticized. For years, Geier has testified as an expert witness in court cases in which parents claim vaccines caused their child’s autism — an idea that has been widely discredited. In one such case, the judge, or special master, called Geier’s testimony “seriously intellectually dishonest.”
The board’s order is the first step in what often is a lengthy process. At a hearing next week, Geier will be allowed to present evidence; the board also will hear from its own representative. The board can uphold the suspension, allow Geier to practice while it continues to investigate or throw out the order.
Geier and his son, David Geier run the ASD Centers, which advertise “new hope for autism,” and have offices around the country. Geier is scheduled to speak at the annual Autism One conference this month in suburban Chicago and I’m sure many will be present to listen to him and, too, that more than a few parents will still seek to try his protocols and defend his expertise.
The Geiers are representative of a number of medical professionals (some medical doctors, some not) who have proliferated in the past decade to offer alternative medical, or rather “biomedical” treatments, for autistic children. These treatments often use nutritional supplements including high doses of vitamins and various medicines and drugs, all of which are said (if not promised) to improve the behavior and learning deficits of autistic children. However, none of the treatments have sound scientific evidence to back them up. The promised results of these treatments are primarily anecdotal, with parents often finding out about them from the Internet, conferences promoting such alternative treatments (including Autism One) and other parents.
We once tried some of these biomedical treatments for our son Charlie and attended some of the conferences. Did they help Charlie? I remember, we seemed to see some immediate results, though we have always had to factor in the other educational, speech and occupational therapies that Charlie was receiving at the same time. After reading many of the books, studies and claims of these alternative medical practitioners, hearing some of them speak, speaking to some of them and observing the results of various protocols on Charlie, we concluded that these alternative treatments were based on dubious and minimal evidence and were not, ultimately, helpful. We also were very concerned about some of the risks, and the fact that the practitioners did not fully spell such out.
It’s not easy raising an autistic son (and our son is on the more severe end of the spectrum) and we understand why parents, wanting to help their children, seek out such unsubstantiated treatments as the Geiers offer. It is heartening to know that the state of Maryland has taken steps to protect parents from those who falsely claim they can “help” and “cure” an autistic child — who take advantage of the desperation some parents can feel.
More commentary about the Geiers can be read at two blogs, both by parents of children on the autism spectrum, the Neurodiversity blog by Kathleen Seidel and A Life Less Ordinary by scientist Emily Willingham.
Photo by steakpinball