Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) and autism at Autism One: Kerri Rivera’s apologists strike back (Part 2)

Here we go again.

Remember how last week I said I wouldn’t write about the Miracle Mineral Solution (abbreviated MMS) again for a while? I lied.

Well, actually, I didn’t. At the time I wrote that, I really did mean to give it a rest for a while, and for a while at least I was a good boy. I even managed to ignore Todd Drezner’s excellent post on—of all places!—what is normally a wretched hive of scum and quackery, The Huffington Post, entitled The Curious Case of Autism and MMS. Then came this post by an MMS apologist that we’ve met before, a man named Adam Mr. Abraham who goes by the handle of The Phaelosopher and is responsible for putting together the incredible conference of woo that he calls the Genome Healing Workshop, which was held in Scottsdale this very weekend. He’s also the same guy who was—shall we say?—less than pleased with me for having criticized his workshop.

The Phaelospher, it appears, is very unhappy with Mr. Drezner, very unhappy indeed, so much so that he wrote a post entitled The “MMS-is-Bleach” Card is Played… Again. Before we get to the “Fail-osopher,” as skeptics like to call him, let’s first go back to Mr. Drezner’s HuffPo post and what brought it about. It was a hard-hitting article, and, certainly, I can’t argue with Mr. Drezner’s conclusion:

Let’s state the obvious: There is no reason to give bleach to any child, for any reason. There is not a shred of scientific evidence that MMS is an effective treatment for autism. Some purveyors of quackery have spotted a lucrative market and are trying to take advantage of it. But their protocol is far closer to child abuse than it is to effective medical treatment.

Sadly, Autism One and those who attend it have had a very hard time recognizing these simple facts. In a post at Age of Autism, Julie Obradovic tries to defend MMS without actually defending it. Instead, she mentions that Autism One presenters included M.D.s, Ph.D.s, and a Nobel Laureate. But the presence of smart people at a conference that promotes quackery doesn’t change the fact that it’s promoting quackery.

Indeed, it does not, although I would point out to Mr. Drezner that this Nobel Laureate is a Nobel Laureate who has come down with the Nobel Disease. He’s turned into a complete crank, endorsing homeopathy, appearing in an HIV/AIDS denialist movie, and starting up an unethical clinical trial of long-term antibiotic therapy for autistic children. In fact, it was that clinical trial that he came to Autism One to talk about, lending the aura of his Nobel Prize to the most wretched of quackfests.

Montagnier aside, I dealt with Julie Obradovic’s apologia for MMS last week as well. Basically, in the context of writing about how great she thought the Autism One quackfest was over Memorial Day weekend, she lamented how mean some skeptical bloggers were to Kerri Rivera, the quack whose talk touting using MMS for autism actually appears to have embarrassed members of the “autism biomed” quackery underground enough to downplay it or to play the “be open-minded” card. As I say frequently, though, it’s a fine line between being open-minded and being so open-minded that your brains fall out. Letting a quack like Kerri Rivera give a talk about feeding autistic children bleach and giving them bleach enemas until they get a fever, all in an attempt to cure their autism, blows past that line at Indy racer-like speeds and continues on for the proverbial 500 laps past it. From my perspective, if anything, we skeptics went a little too easy on Ms. Rivera, but our commenters didn’t. They called this “treatment” what it really is: Child abuse. Even if the bleach in the solutions poured into these children’s anuses were nothing more than water or saline, it would still be child abuse because it’s a useless therapy that involves doing something that is likely to cause extreme distress to any child. Autistic children, however, given their frequent sensory issues, are far more likely to find such a treatment to be painful or disturbing in the extreme while many of them would be less likely to be cooperative for it. But, as we know, it’s worse than that, given that Rivera advocates upping the doses until children start having fevers, exulting about how she loves fever therapy.

Criticism of this quackery is what Obradovic characterized as “odd that something most people at the conference didn’t even know much about had already been completely scrutinized by people who seem loathe the mere idea of medically treating a child with Autism (with anything but pharmaceuticals, apparently)” and as “obsessive and premature.” Later, Ms. Obradovic showed up in the comments of Mr. Drezner’s post, outraged that she had been characterized as defending MMS quackery, saying that what she wrote was “in no way an endorsement of MMS” and concluding:

Your argument that Autism One should not have given MMS a venue regardless is fair. But to take issue with me and what I wrote, and to morph my observation of Autism One into a defense of MMS is not. I was defending the parents who attend Autism One, not a treatment. I respectfully ask that is acknowledged. I also accept responsibility for any interpretation my article gave otherwise.

Now, far be it from me to be critical of someone who takes responsibility for it when her writing is misinterpreted. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s what Ms. Obradovic is doing. After all, “accepting responsibility” means nothing if you don’t admit that what you wrote could easily been misinterpreted by reasonable people. Whining about it doesn’t count. On the other hand, in all fairness, maybe she’ll get there.

However much I might criticize Ms. Obradovic for her outrage that skeptics might have the temerity to criticize something such as bleach enemas as a treatment for autism, The Phaelosopher goes one step beyond. Actually, many steps beyond—beyond the event horizon of a black hole of burning stupid. After complaining that Mr. Drezner’s piece is a “slam,” in introducing Ms. Rivera and her quack clinic Mr. Abraham first repeats the despicable idea that autistic children are “soul-less”:

The clinic is an outgrowth of another motivation; the fact that Rivera is the mother of an autistic child, a growing boy who, in his second year of life, was healthy one day, and after receiving a required, “routine” inoculation, suddenly went away. His body is there, but his spirit, his proclivity toward normal human interaction, is not. He is distant in a way that saddens a mother’s heart.

No one doubts that raising a severely autistic child is incredibly difficult, as it is for many special needs children, but to describe such children as being there in body but not in spirit suggests that people like Mr. Abraham do not think of such children as wholly human, that they think of them as somehow less than human. I read it time and time again on autism “biomed” websites and antivaccine blogs: “Something” (almost always the evil vaccines”) “stole” the child away, but the child can be “recovered.” In this, the view is that there is some sort of idealized “normal” child who can return, if only the “toxins” from vaccines/pollution/diet/chemicals or whatever can be purged.

In any case, Mr. Abraham brags about 40 children out of 400 families allegedly “lost” their autism diagnosis. Let’s take Ms. Rivera at her word that approximately 40 children out of 400 families did indeed lose their autism diagnoses. This in no way implies that the bleach did it. Autism, after all, is a condition of developmental delay, not developmental stasis. As many as 19% of children diagnosed with autism at age two lose their diagnosis before their seventh birthday, either due to maturation, intervention, or over-diagnosis at age 2; so even if Ms. Rivera is not deluding herself about all these “recoveries,” what she is presenting is nothing spectacular that couldn’t be achieved by doing nothing at all outside of the mainstream. Yet she pours bleach down children’s throats and pumps it into their colons and then congratulates herself for results that could easily be achieved without MMS. Meanwhile, Mr. Abraham, exults that “the syndrome went away, and the child, the spirit, had returned.”

As I said, despicable.

Next, Mr. Abraham shares with us the story of a mother who claims to have gotten all sorts of worms out of her autistic child using Ms. Rivera’s protocol, complete with pictures. Who knows if this child actually had worms, whether this is a legitimate medical anecdote or a made-up one? Let’s say for the moment that it’s legitimate. So what? Giving a child enemas of almost any kind would probably get worms out of the colon as they emerge from the small intestine if there are worms in the digestive tract. That doesn’t mean that getting rid of worms will cure autism or that bleach enemas are even a good treatment for worms.

Finally, Mr. Abraham makes a most ridiculous analogy:

When we see pictures of children “fighting cancer” that have no hair, we think that the cancer condition caused the hair loss. However, the cancer treatment; the chemotherapy or radiation, actually did the deed. We are accustomed to rationalizing, at doctor’s suggestion and all the “respected” literature on the subject, that it was okay because the cancer was so dangerous.

Even though it creates no residual chemical toxicity in the body, doctors will not use MMS, which has proven itself to be a benign and effective way to reduce a myriad of chemical abuses and microbial abnormalities inside the human body. Doctors will not use it because the FDA and the AMA frown upon such use. Livelihoods can be upset if this outlaw “bleach” as the FDA mis-characterizes the sodium chlorite solution that is MMS, is used.

That’s right. Mr. Abraham is actually arguing that it’s a double standard to criticize treating autism by making children sick by feeding them bleach and giving them bleach enemas while accepting the side effects of hair loss, nausea, and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy. This is an argument so brain dead that I don’t think even his Genome Healing Workshop could restore the neurons that must have been destroyed to allow him to make it.

Last week, I asked this rhetorical question: Will the autism “biomed” underground ever renounce using bleach to treat autism? I’m still not sure of the answer, even though several of my readers have told me the answer is no. On the one hand, we have people like Julie Obradovic and the “media director” of the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism furiously backpedaling and assuring us that they really and truly aren’t defending MMS. Clearly, Rivera’s appearance at Autism One three weeks ago embarrassed them. Actually, it wasn’t her appearance per se, but rather that fact that the blogosphere noticed and spread the news of her quack presentation far and wide. On the other hand, they’re also defending “freedom” to choose quackery like MMS and circling the wagons.

Maybe those who told me that the “autism biomed” movement will never renounce any form of quackery, no matter how outrageous, not even MMS, were right after all.