Earn CME credits for attending an autism quackfest!

Well, it snuck up on me again, the way it has a tendency to do every year. Maybe it’s because Memorial Day is so early this year. Maybe it’s because there’s just so much work to do this week given the multiple grant deadlines. Whatever the case, it just dawned on my last night that today is the first day of the yearly autism quackfest known as AutismOne (AO), which is being held at the Intercontinental O’Hare Hotel near Chicago. Of course, things are different this year. Given the schism between team Crosby and pretty much everyone else in the antivaccine movement, it’s unclear what the deal will be this year, although Jake Crosby will still be giving a talk there on Saturday. Hilariously, it would appear that he will be giving a talk about the very feuds he instigated last year, when he decided that Mark “Not A Doctor, Not A Scientist” Blaxill had somehow betrayed the purity of the movement by not giving his antivaccine hero Brian Hooker the due that Crosby thought Hooker deserved at the trumped up Congressional antivaccine hearings in 2012 and teamed up with Patrick “Tim” Bolen to attack his former friends and allies. Check it out:

So often, when we think of investigating autism, we think of discovering the physiological underpinnings. But what about the sociological forces that perpetuate the autism epidemic? Politics from without? Or – surprisingly – politics from within? In this startling lecture, Jacob Crosby, MPH, discusses the obstructionist forces that have hampered progress within the autism advocacy arena.

He’s even billed as a featured speaker, something that isn’t even true of Andrew Wakefield, who apparently will also be there.

Too bad I can’t be there. It will be a laugh riot, I’m sure. Coincidentally, I will be in Chicago the following weekend for a real medical meeting, that of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Not that AO would let me anywhere near the hotel or conference, given its past history of ejecting anyone who might not toe the antivaccine line or might actually reveal the depths of quackery that are routinely presented there year after year, such as bleach enemas for autism, which will take the form of bleach enema karaoke (no, really, AO is advertising Kerri Rivera at the karaoke night) and talk by the very same über-quack Kerri Rivera, the woman most responsible for bringing the Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) protocol, a.k.a. bleaching autism away, to AutismOne. Also this year, using marijuana to treat autism seems to be big, probably because stoned autistic children are probably mellower and easier to manage, more than any actual real, therapeutic effect from the pot.

What struck me, though, as I perused the quackfest speaker list and schedule, was this:

This program will provide information for professional medical practitioners concerning the variety of pathophysiological processes frequently encountered in children with autism spectrum disorder. Topics covered will include metabolic, gastrointestinal, immunological, and neurological dysfunction. Subtopics that will be covered will include intestinal inflammation, methylation, oxidative stress, immune dysregulation, mitochondrial disorder, and detoxification impairment. Information will address comorbid disease states present in autism, and which suggest the benefit of a comprehensive approach to treatment. The program will familiarize practitioners with developing a comprehensive approach in the medical evaluation of ASDs, utilizing the principles of personalized care.

OK, this sounds like the standard sort of “autism biomed” quackery I’ve been discussing for years, quackery based on the idea that vaccines cause autism and that you have to “detoxify” to “recover” autistic children. It’s simultaneously depressing and amusing how the term “personalized care” has been co-opted by quacks. Remember that in the hands of quacks, basically “personalization” or “individualization” of medical care means “making stuff up as you go along.” (Yes, I would normally use another word besides “stuff,” but NatGeo frowns upon—shall we say?—more colorful language, particularly if that color is brown.) In any case, you can actually get continuing medical education (CME) credits for one session of the quackfest! For those of you who aren’t medical professionals, doctors and other medical professionals need to prove that they keep up with changes in medicine through continuing education. Talks, courses, and conferences that qualify offer CME credits for attending, and this session of AO will provide CME credits to physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals who need CME credits to maintain their certification and licensure.

So who is there and what will be taught? Well, an oldie but moldy name is on the list: Richard Deth, who was an “expert witness” for complainants in the Autism Omnibus proceeding and appeared in the antivaccine propaganda film The Greater Good. He’ll be giving not one, but two—count ’em, two!—talks about his redox regulation and methylation quackery for autism. Also there will be a guy named John Hicks, MD, whose talk is described as having “dedicated himself to the art and science of integrated holistic medicine. Using a cooperative medical, nutritional, emotional and energetic approach.” His website advertises using “holistic medicine” that includes “energy medicine“:

Cutting edge quantum physics and ancient mystic traditions tell us the same thing: The universe and everything in it, including the human body, is made up of energy. Pure energy is unmanifested potential. When that energy is manifested, it takes on physical form. Our bodies, therefore, are manifested energy. Each of us has our own unique energetic vibration and energy field that is connected to the energy of the universe. Energy flows from us, through us and to us every minute of every day.

Energy Medicine works with this energetic footprint and uses the innate wisdom of the body to shift negative energy, release blockages and restore balance and energy flow. The body always wants to heal itself. As energy medicine healers, we engage and facilitate the body’s own healing capacity. Because we believe that human beings are an energetic matrix of mind/body/spirit, energy medicine plays a role in all of our work.

That’s some high grade, tasty woo. I might have to revisit Dr. Hicks’ site, given that he also uses modalities like the raindrop technique and the usual dubious diet techniques such as:

  • Individual Allergy Assessments
  • Low Yeast/Sugar removal
  • Rotation and Elimination diets
  • Gluten and casein-free diet

And you can get CME credit for this!

There’s also Norman Schwartz, MD, who appears to be the organizer of this segment:

We live in a world with so many chronic diseases. With 1 child in 68 now having an autism spectrum disorder, is autism a chronic disease with etiology common to other illnesses? Dr. Norman Schwartz will cover pathways in the body that can be predictive of autism and its comorbid conditions if perturbed by stressors. He will address the topic of epigenetics and what we need to add to our repertoire to bolster the body of parents-to-be and of children to stave off autism as well as what to avoid.

It turns out that Dr. Schwartz is an “integrative medicine” specialist. Unfortunately, his website is “under construction,” so that all I can see of him is this:

Discover answers from ancient wisdom and modern science about the role food and nutrition play in activating your body’s innate healing system.

My guess is that he probably offers the usual autism biomed nonsense. Let’s see:

We live in a world with so many chronic diseases. With 1 child in 68 now having an autism spectrum disorder, is autism a chronic disease with etiology common to other illnesses? Dr. Norman Schwartz will cover pathways in the body that can be predictive of autism and its comorbid conditions if perturbed by stressors. He will address the topic of epigenetics and what we need to add to our repertoire to bolster the body of parents-to-be and of children to stave off autism as well as what to avoid.
Learning Objectives:

The student will learn:

  • What the discipline of epigenetics refers to
  • he metabolic pathways of the body that are most relevant to autism
  • What can help the metabolic pathways in a susceptible child
  • What environmental stressors are best to avoid by parents-to-be and children

Epigenetics. It had to be epigenetics. It’s one of the new favored terms quacks use to justify quackery. Like “quantum,” few people who aren’t scientists know what epigenetics really refers to and it can be easily abused because it can be waved before non-scientists as a seemingly plausible explanation for magic, specifically the implication that one can change one’s own genetics through diet and thinking happy thoughts, the way “quantum” can be invoked to seemingly justify magic like homeopathy and distance healing. Epigenetics. It’s the new quantum.

In any case, I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised that one can get CME credit for attending a quackfest like AutismOne. After all, CME credits are routinely available for conferences like the Society of Integrative Oncology and various “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) and “integrative medicine” conferences that teach a mix of mundane science-based modalities like diet and exercise that have been “rebranded” as CAM or “integrative” with modalities that are nothing more than pure magical vitalism, such as acupuncture, “energy medicine” like reiki, and even homeopathy. So getting CME for a session at a quackfest like AO shouldn’t be too surprising. It’s just the next logical step.

Which makes me wonder: What are the most egregious examples of quackfests or quack conferences that offer real, honest-to-goodness CME credit?