Update on Abubakar Tariq Nadama: The autopsy results have been announced

Here's an update on the story of Abubakar Tariq Nadama, the unfortunate 5 year old autistic boy who died while receiving chelation therapy in August. According to the Pittburgh Post-Gazette:
A 5-year-old autistic boy who went into cardiac arrest in his doctor's office died as a result of the controversial chelation therapy he was receiving as a treatment for his autism.

The manner of death of Abubakar Tariq Nadama, of Monroeville, has been listed as accidental while the investigation continues.

The findings released by the Butler County coroner's office don't say whether the treatment itself is dangerous or the child died from the way the treatment was administered.

In layman's terms, the administration of ethylene diamine tetra-acetate, commonly known as chelation, resulted in a lack of oxygen to the brain as well as irreversible heart damage, said Allegheny County Deputy Coroner Ed Strimlan.

The Allegheny County morgue conducted the autopsy on the child at the request of Butler County Coroner Bill Young.

"We determined there's a direct correlation between the EDTA and the lack of oxygen to the brain and the heart muscle damage. It's a total package, based on the autopsy, the histology [tissue sampling] and the toxicology [blood sampling]," Mr. Strimlan said.

The determination is sure to spark debate among parents, many of whom support chelation as a safe and effective therapy for autism. Others condemn the treatment as voodoo medicine.

The autopsy report indicates the manner of death was accidental. The other categories are natural, suicide and homicide.
No doubt chelation advocates will cry foul, but it looks as though the autopsy definitely indicates that chelation therapy killed the boy. Given the circumstances of the boy's death, it's pretty obvious that the cause was almost certainly hypocalcemia due to EDTA leading to cardiac arrest. At the time, I was afraid that the autopsy findings might not reflect EDTA as the cause of death, mainly because deaths from sudden cardiac arrest due to acute electrolyte abnormalities don't always produce concrete findings that let the pathologist pin down the exact cause. Such a result would have given the chelationists an "out" to claim that it wasn't the EDTA that killed Tariq. Fortunately, that didn't happen in this case. Too bad the parents are highly unlikely to sue Dr. Roy Kerry, the ENT doctor turned alternative medicine practitioner, because he wouldn't have a prayer of winning a malpractice suit against him. (If doctors in this country can be sued and lose for bad outcomes that aren't their fault, one hopes that someone like Dr. Kerry can be sued for bad outcomes that are his fault.) Maybe a big settlement or a big malpractice judgment against one (or, preferably more) of these autism chelationists would be what it would take to cool their love of this particular ineffective autism therapy somewhat.

I'm probably dreaming though.

I'll close with a speculation/prediction: Now that the autopsy report is out, I'm guessing that it probably won't be long before some chelationist somewhere (or perhaps even Dr. Kerry trying to avoid losing his medical license and/or going to jail for causing the death of a young child by giving him a useless treatment for autism) will hire Dr. Mohammed Al-Bayati, the "pathologist" who tried (and failed miserably) to rebut the L.A. County Coroner's autopsy report that concluded that Eliza Jane Scovill (daughter of prominent HIV/AIDS denialist Christine Maggiore) had died of HIV-related complications. After all, doing hack jobs on coroner's reports to try to keep his clients from going to jail is Dr. Al-Bayati's specialty, particularly if he can blame the death on vaccines. I can just see Dr. Al-Bayati exercising his special "skills" (such as they are) on the Nadama autopsy report. I hope I'm wrong, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see another Al-Bayati hatchet job on the way.

Just wait.

More on this story:
  1. Chelation Death: The Coroner Speaks (subtitled: Look Before You Leap)
  2. Abubakar's Death: The Coroner's Office Speaks


  1. "Too bad the parents are highly unlikely to sue Dr. Roy Kerry, the ENT doctor turned alternative medicine practitioner, because he wouldn't have a prayer of winning a malpractice suit against him."

    Why do you say that? I know almost nothing about malpractice law, but it would seem there's a substantial case of it here. If malpractice law was intended to do anything, it was designed to keep dangerous quacks like this from practicing. Or am I just being naive?

  2. Hi Ali, it's my understanding they moved from the UK in order to have this treatment (I could be wrong, this is from blog sources).

    Can you imagine the horror of losing a child only to be compounded by the fact that it happened during an elective treatment that was sought for a long period of time? The moved to a different continent to pursue it.

    Do you think the parents are going to weigh the possibility that the procedure wasn't absolutely necessary? I shudder to think of the emotional pain that's built up in them. My heart goes out to them, and their son.

    Just my opinon. What a tragedy.

  3. Since the parents are from Nigeria by way of England, I doubt that they willbring suit. Further, to do so would mean that they have to come to grips with their culpability in the death of their child.

  4. Indeed. My legal knowledge may be incomplete on this matter, but I think that the only people with legal standing to sue Dr. Kerry are the child's legal guardians; i. e., his parents.

    I'm hoping the State of Pennsylvania's Medical Board will yank Dr. Kerry's license, but I'm not holding my breath.

    My question is: How the hell can this guy get malpractice insurance, which--as I seem to recall--is a requirement to maintain medical licensure in Pennsylvania.


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