SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – A doctor was ordered to stand trial on charges he caused the death of a 5-year-old autistic boy by incorrectly administering a controversial chemical treatment.
Dr. Roy Kerry, 69, used the wrong drug and administered it incorrectly while trying to use chelation therapy on Abubakar Tariq Nadama, another physician testified at Kerry's preliminary hearing Thursday.
The boy went into cardiac arrest in Kerry's office on Aug. 23, 2005, immediately after receiving the therapy, which is meant to remove heavy metals from the body.
Chelation is not approved by the federal government for treating autism, though the Food and Drug Administration has approved it for treating lead poisoning.
Some people link autism to a mercury-containing preservative that was once common in childhood vaccines. Those who believe this is a possible cause of autism advocate chelation as a remedy.
A district judge on Thursday determined prosecutors had enough evidence to proceed with the case and ordered Kerry to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter.
Kerry's Lawyer, Al Lindsay, argued there was not enough evidence that the doctor had committed a crime.
Dr. Mary Carrasco, a pediatrician who testified for the prosecution, said Kerry used the wrong drug and administered it incorrectly. She called his actions "extremely reckless."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed Abubakar's autopsy in January 2006. The agency said the boy died because the doctor administered a drug that removes calcium from the blood, disodium EDTA, rather than calcium EDTA, which is FDA-approved to treat heavy metal poisoning.
Carrasco also said Kerry administered the drug in one intravenous "push," but should have given the drug over several hours.
Theresa Vicker, a certified medical assistant who worked for Kerry and administered the drug to Abubakar, said he was the first child she had treated with chelation. She also said she had never been instructed to do so in one "push" before, but rather over a period of more than three hours.
"When I was finished with the administration of the mixture, I was switching syringes to push in the saline and Tariq quit breathing," Vicker said.
After removing the IV line, Vicker and the assisting physician checked the boy's vitals, called the paramedics and began administering CPR. When paramedics arrived, Vicker left the exam room and "we cried," she said.
The boy's parents, Mawra and Rufai Nadama, had moved from Plymouth, England, to the Pittsburgh area so he could receive the autism treatment. They have filed a wrongful death suit against Kerry. The parents, who have returned to the United Kingdom, did not attend Thursday's hearing.
Kerry has argued that the boy's autism symptoms improved after the first two treatments. He acknowledged there may have been "miscommunication" about which medicine to administer during the third treatment, but said it did not amount to gross negligence.
Kerry also will stand trial on charges of endangering the welfare of a child and reckless endangerment. The doctor has no prior conviction, so is unlikely to face the maximum sentence of decades in prison.
John Gismondi, the family's attorney, welcomed the district judge's decision.
"It was obviously reckless conduct. He did something no doctor in the world would do," Gismondi said.