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Medical advisory board to offer opinions in autistic boy's death

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunday, August 27, 2006 The panel will help determine whether it is a criminal matter. PITTSBURGH (AP) — Five-year-old Abubakar Tariq Nadama went into cardiac arrest and died last August after receiving a controversial treatment for autism. A year later, prosecutors and investigators are still trying to determine whether the boy's death was an accident or whether criminal charges should be filed. An advisory board convened by the attorney general's office may soon help them reach a decision. About the board Consisting of about 50 experts including pediatricians, forensic pathologists and coroners, the attorney general's Medical/Legal Advisory Board on Child Abuse will meet Sept. 20 in Harrisburg to share its opinions with state police and prosecutors, said Butler County District Attorney Randa Clark. "It's a nice kind of think tank where you get someone else reviewing your case from very different disciplines and giving you their opinion," Clark said. "It may help us determine, is this a criminal matter? Is this more of a civil malpractice matter? Is this something we need to conduct an inquest on?" Investigators should decide how to proceed about a week after the meeting, Clark said. Created in 1988 as a resource for prosecutors and investigators, the advisory board meets about six times a year and has reviewed more than 100 cases. It often helps nail down suspects or suggest new leads, Clark said. "It's one of the few times doctors and lawyers actually work together," she joked. Boy's death Nadama moved with his mother, Marwa, from Britain to the Pittsburgh suburb of Monroeville to undergo chelation therapy, which involves injecting a synthetic amino acid called EDTA into the body. During treatment at the Advanced Integrative Medicine Center in Portersville, the boy's mother noticed he was limp. Doctors there tried to resuscitate him, but he died after being transported to Butler Memorial Hospital. John Gismondi, the attorney representing the family, said he welcomes the investigation. "There are a lot of unanswered questions. We believe that Tariq got the wrong solution. Nobody really knows how that happened or why that happened," he said. "We're in favor of any investigation, criminal or otherwise, that sheds more light on what happened." The family is considering filing a civil suit, Gismondi said. Dr. Roy Eugene Kerry, who treated Nadama, declined to comment on the boy's death or the investigation, a receptionist at the Advanced Integrative Medical Center said. Neither Gismondi nor Clark were aware of any past cases where charges were brought for chelation-related deaths. Other deaths In February 2005, a 2-year-old Texas girl with lead poisoning was treated with three chelating agents and died at a hospital hours later from what an autopsy concluded was cardiac arrest due to depleted levels of calcium. In August 2003, a 53-year-old Oregon woman died after receiving EDTA treatment at a naturopathic clinic in Oregon. The Food and Drug Administration has approved chelation to treat lead and heavy metal poisoning. But it has not approved it for autism because there are no clear benefits and serious side effects, including kidney damage and heart problems, experts have said. "Unfortunately families feel like they need to try everything because we don't know how to cure it," said Cynthia Johnson, director of the Autism Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.