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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Parents of austisic child ask for privacy

By Karen Kane, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The family of a 5-year-old autistic boy who died while receiving a controversial medical treatment touted by some as a cure for the disorder is thanking the community for its sympathy but asking for privacy.

Attorney Frank Botta, of Pittsburgh, said Rufia and Mawra Nadama, the parents of Abubakar Tariq Nadama, "are grieving and they need some time."

In an interview with the Post-Gazette on Wednesday, a day after her son died while receiving an intravenous chelation therapy in a Butler County doctor's office, Mawra Nadama said she was not ready to blame the therapy for her son's death and wanted to wait for autopsy results before drawing any conclusions.

Botta said the Nadamas are continuing their wait-and-see approach. Rufia Nadama is a medical doctor.

Botta said the family is originally from Nigeria but moved to England about 10 years ago. Mawra and her son moved temporarily to Monroeville a few months ago so the child could receive chelation treatment.

Botta said the couple would consider making a public statement after the autopsy report is final. Authorities have said it could take up to five months to complete all the necessary testing.

He said the family has received an outpouring of sympathy as well as offers of financial help with funeral expenses. "They are greatly appreciative of the response from the community, particularly the autism support groups," he said.

He noted that the family is "financially secure" and not in need of the proffered help with their son's funeral expenses. However, Botta said, the couple is in the midst of establishing a trust fund "to advance the research into the cause of autism and to assist others in need of care."

State police at Butler are investigating the child's death, which occurred Tuesday morning after he went into cardiac arrest while receiving chelation -- an intravenous injection of a synthetic amino acid known as EDTA, for ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the practice only to treat heavy metal poisoning. The EDTA attaches to the heavy metals in the bloodstream so they can be excreted in the urine.

The child was receiving the treatment in the office of Dr. Roy Eugene Kerry in Portersville. A licensed physician and surgeon with a speciality in ear, nose and throat, his main office is in Greenville, Mercer County, and he's been practicing since 1965. Doing business as Advanced Integrative Medicine Center, Kerry advertises as offering chelation therapy. Kerry couldn't be reached for comment.

Though chelation therapy has been increasing in popularity in recent months due to positive anecdotal reports, skeptics in the medical community fear the procedure is too risky because it has not undergone rigorous medical trials.

The child's death has spurred heated debate within the autism community as parents and medical professionals argue over the safety of chelation and its varied methods of treatment.

(Karen Kane can be reached at kkane@post-gazette.com or 724-772-9180.)

Posted by Becca

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